There’s not much that makes me want to leave London but, right now, the weather is, well, challenging. It’s the weather for socks, central heating and raincoats when I should be moaning about wasps, barbecues and sweaty people on the tube. Okay, that last one, that’s still an issue. It’s the sort of weather that makes me want to get on the Eurostar and head south, to keep going until I hit somewhere like Nice and can be sure of a little bit of blue sky. Since that’s unlikely to happen on this wet Thursday, I thought I’d bring Nice to N7 and make one of its most famous exports.
Salade Niçoise is what the French would call a salade composée which just means mixed salad. But whereas the British idea of a mixed salad can still, scarily, be a few slices of undressed, dried-out cucumber and tomato, the only protein a dead insect or two, in France it’s often the main event, the mix and the dressing varying according to the location. Niçoise is full of the flavours of the sun and the sea – anchovies, olives and tuna – and it will brighten any day. Yes, even this one.
I confess I rarely use measurements for this. I think of it as a ‘handful’ recipe and, since your hand, and appetite, will be different to mine I suggest you trust your eyes and stomach to tell you if you have enough of each ingredient. A Niçoise can become labour- and washing-up intensive but if you steam the veg above the water used to boil the eggs you can make it a one-pot meal.
For two you will need:
Cupboard (or things you may already have)
sea salt and black pepper
wine vinegar (red or white)
green (fine or French) beans, a couple of handfuls (about 75-100g)
Cos/Romaine lettuce leaves, a couple of handfuls
new potatoes, a couple of handfuls (about 100g)
a large tomato, or a couple of medium ones (about 100g)
tinned tuna, 100g
pitted black olives, 50g
tinned anchovy fillets, 4-6
1. First prep the veg. Rinse the lettuce and leave to drain. Quarter the tomatoes. Top and tail the beans and rinse and, if necessary, wash the new potatoes.
2. Rinse the olives, break the tuna up into small pieces and, if you want, chop the anchovies into small pieces (or keep them whole, and fan them out on the top of the salad like the spokes of a wheel).
3. Boil the eggs for about 5 minutes (if you like the yolks to stay just soft) or longer for hard-boiled. As soon as they’re done, crack the shells (this stops the yolks going a weird colour as they cool) and rinse under cold water to cool properly. Leave unshelled on one side.
4. Steam the new potatoes until soft (about 10-15 minutes depending on the size) and, about five minutes before they are done add the beans to steam too.
5. Meanwhile, put the salad leaves in a large bowl with the tomatoes, dress very lightly with a splash of olive oil and vinegar and season.
6. When the veg are done add them to the salad with the tuna, chopped anchovies and olives.
7. Finally peel and quarter the eggs and arrange on the top of the salad, dress with a tad more oil and vinegar, season and serve.