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.

Sunday Star-Times - Sunday Magazine - - FOOD WITH SAM MANNERING -

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.

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