New riff on a classic
Niçoise purists would be horrified, but this riff on the traditional salad from southern France is sure to delight the tastebuds.
Ialways knew there was a bit of debate as to what constitutes a genuine Niçoise. I didn’t expect to be opening such a Pandora’s box. The salad in its “purest” form, according to a former mayor of Nice, should be made in a wooden bowl rubbed down with garlic and comprised “…predominantly of tomatoes… salted three times, moistened with olive oil… with hard-boiled eggs, anchovies or tuna, but not both…” There is an organisation that exists to protest against such grave offences as the addition of any other ingredient, from mayonnaise to lemon. Escoffier kicked up a real stink by adding green beans and spuds. Sacrilege! I tire of stringent purism pretty easily, but I cannot in all good faith call this a genuine Niçoise, for fear of ending up being pursued by a hit man. On the other hand, I also have the utmost respect for culinary tradition, and so out of reverence and a desire not to be taken out by an aggrieved traditionalist, the recipe below is merely a “sort of” Niçoise.
Gordon Ramsay and Delia Smith (two ends of the scale, I feel) think that this is the perfect salad. I would tend to agree. The work is in the prep, which can be done in advance, as it only really takes a moment to slap together. As always, make sure that your ingredients are top notch. Good eggs; lovely spuds; fresh, sustainable tuna. You will be richly rewarded.
A SORT OF SALAD NIÇOISE
Cook time: 20 mins / Prep time: 30 mins Serves: 4-6
500g wee new spuds 5 free-range eggs 150g green beans 400-450g fresh tuna Olive oil
Salt and pepper 150g cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered
Handful of black or kalmata olives, pitted and roughly chopped
1 small red onion, finely sliced 1 lemon
Large handful of cos (also known as romaine) lettuce, washed and roughly torn 3 red radishes, cut into eighths lenthways Good aioli, to serve
Put the spuds on to boil in lightly salted water, until they are just tender. In another small saucepan of boiling water, cook the eggs for 7 minutes, no more, and then drain and run under cold water until the eggs are cold. Blanch the beans for barely a minute, and then drain and run under cold water so that they retain a lovely crunch.
Rub the tuna down with a generous splash of olive oil and season well on all sides with salt and pepper. Get a good solid frying pan really hot, add a glug of oil and then quickly sear the tuna on all sides (you are just searing the fish, not cooking it through) then remove from the heat and set aside to rest for 5 minutes.
Meantime, in a large mixing bowl, toss together the cooked spuds and beans with the tomatoes, olives and red onion with a tablespoon or so of olive oil, a generous seasoning of salt and pepper and the zest from the lemon. Fold in the lettuce and spread over a large serving platter.
Thinly slice the tuna and arrange over the top. Quarter the eggs and scatter over, followed by the radish. Squeeze over a bit of lemon juice and follow with a final drizzle of olive oil and a smattering of salt and pepper. Dot a bit of aioli over the top and serve immediately.