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Recipe: A Savoury Summer Salad Niçoise

Salad Niçoise is a classic summer recipe. It makes a perfect lunch for those who like intense flavours – oily fish, bitter olives, meaty tuna, acidic vinaigrette, crisp beans and buttery egg. This recipe is my own mix of two – one is a Julia Child staple from her iconic book ‘The Way to Cook’; and the other is my mother’s potato salad recipe. The first provides all the base components, while the other involves a much easier, more flavourful potato preparation (sorry Julia). This recipe has a lot of components and can be quite complex, but I have added tips to make it more suitable for the student cook – these are in italics.

This recipe makes a lot, which reflects the quantities often available from supermarkets. This avoids too many ‘little bits’ left over. If making for one, just halve the quantities and store the excess in the fridge separately. Most of the ingredients will keep well chilled for a short time and make a good lunch the next day.

Time to make: 1-1.5 hours

Serves 6

Ingredients

2 lettuces (Romaine or other medium size)

400g green beans (two packets)

3 fine ripe red tomatoes

4 hard-boiled eggs

1 can of tuna

1 can of anchovy fillets (mackerel also works)

50g black olives or 1 packet of Pitted Kalamata Olives with Herbs by Sainsbury’s (Tesco sells a similar one)

25g fresh parsley

salt and pepper, to taste

For the Potato Salad

750g potatoes (baby new potatoes are the best, otherwise chop into smallish chunks)

1 large shallot or red onion

Handful fresh mint and/or chives

2 tbsp cider vinegar

2 tsp Dijon mustard

2 tsp wholegrain mustard

2 tbsp olive oil (Cheap olive oil is often bitter. Use either good extra virgin oil or substitute it all for sunflower)

4 tbsp sunflower oil

4 tsp runny honey

To save time, you can use a ready-made dressing such as Newman’s Own French Dressing and Dip

Method

Preparation:

  • Strip your lettuces and soak them in the sink.
  • Rinse the green beans. If you bought ones without ends, skip to Frenching. Strip the beans of the strings. This involves snapping each end and pulling along the length of the bean to see if a string comes off on either side.
  • ‘French’ the beans by cutting each into about 5cm strips diagonally. Don’t bother with Frenching and just leave them whole.
  • Take the lettuce leaves out the sink and dry, either with a towel or salad spinner. Set aside.
  • Fill your sink with cold or iced water.

Blanching the Beans:

  • To save time, I tend to blanch the beans and cook the eggs simultaneously, but I’ve written up the blanching first.
  • Find a large pan and fill with water and some salt. Set to a rolling boil and add all the beans. Frenched beans will take 2-3 minutes, whole ones around 5. Make sure to eat a few to test – they should be soft but still crunchy. Remove the beans with a slotted spoon and immediately add to the cold water in the sink. Leave there for a minute and then take them out. Pat dry with paper towel and put in the fridge. Blanching will keep the beans bright green and fresh for much longer.

Cooking the Eggs:

  • Find a pan big enough to fit all your eggs and cover them with cold water. Add a little salt and heat the whole pan to boil. Let the eggs simmer for a few minutes, then put the lid on and take off the heat. Leave the eggs to cook in the hot water for 10 minutes. These next steps make the eggs easy to peel – cooling them shrinks the whites, and re-boiling expands the shell. Remove the eggs with a slotted spoon and add to the cold water in the sink for a few minutes. Then re-boil the water in the pan, and use the spoon to hold each egg in the boiling water for ten seconds. Put the eggs back into the sink water for around 10 minutes before peeling. 

Recipe for the Potato Salad (see ingredients above):

You can swap all dressing ingredients for Newman’s Own French Dressing and Dip (or another ready-made French dressing)

Potato Salad Method

  • Wash and scrub potatoes. Cut into chunks.
  • Set a large pot to boil and cook the potatoes for around 15 minutes, or until a knife slides into them easily.
  • While the potatoes are cooking, peel and chop the onion into thin rings, finely chop the chives and/or mint.
  • Find an empty jar and add all the dressing ingredients. Shake the jar until you have a combined, thick sauce.
  • Once the potatoes are cooked, drain them, and then leave them in the hot pot for a minute to stiffen up.
  • Transfer the potatoes into a large salad bowl and pour half the dressing over them, saving the rest for the salad. Add the chopped herbs and onion slices and mix gently until all combined.

Serving the Salad Niçoise:

Prepare the cold ingredients:

  • Quarter the tomatoes. Finely chop the parsley. Halve the olives. Halve the boiled eggs.

Assemble the salad:

  • Arrange the lettuce leaves around the edge of a large bowl. You can oil and season the lettuce a little if wanted. Place a large amount of potato salad in the middle – if there is too much, store the rest for another day. Alternate eggs, beans, and tomatoes in a circle on top of the potatoes. Open the can of tuna, flake, and place dollops around the edge. Scatter the olives, and the parsley. To finish, open the can of anchovies, drain, and lay the fish in a sundial formation spreading from the centre.

Serve! Add more seasoning, and the extra measure of vinaigrette to taste.

These two recipes are very versatile and feel free to adjust the ingredients to your preferences – a little more fish, no tomato, it’s all up to you!

The ingredients for the salad
The potato salad mixture