Recipe: Salade Niçoise
- Credit: Archant
Create this authentic French summer salad from Sardine: Simple seasonal Provencal cooking
There is as much debate over the correct way to make a salade Niçoise as there is over how much water and ice to put in your pastis. These discussions have never troubled the Niçois: despite our efforts to ruin the reputation of this great dish, they have happily continued making this salad the way it should be.
Jacques Médecin, former mayor of Nice and author of an authoritative cookbook on la cuisine Niçoise, was in part moved to write the book by his experience of the untraditional and frankly insulting: ‘Over the world,’ he declares in the introduction, ‘I have had the unpleasant experience of being served up leftovers masquerading as salade Niçoise.’ M. Médecin implores us: ‘Whatever you do, if you want to be a worthy exponent of Niçoise cookery, never, never, I beg you, include boiled potato or any other boiled vegetable.’
I, for one, agree with Jacques. A salade Niçoise should be an expression of the southern French summer – crunchy, vibrant, strident and fresh. Squeaky green beans shouldn’t get a look in here, let alone the humble spud. And please, avoid raw peppers. Feel free to improvise (a little).
Tomatoes and cucumber are indispensable, and I love the crunch of sliced radishes. Artichokes, raw of course, add a delicate luxury, while raw broad beans are delicious when small and sweet. Courgette (zucchini) flowers wouldn’t seem out of place. I love this salad served with just salted anchovies, but I do think that a little good-quality confit tuna is delicious too. Please shell out for some of the proper Spanish stuff in olive oil. Jacques says never to use both, but I’m sure he won’t find out if you do.
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½ garlic clove, peeled, for rubbing
2 small artichokes, outer leaves removed, dark green bits peeled, choke removed
1 small, firm cucumber, or ½ a big watery one
12 nice radishes
1 white or red salad onion, as mild and sweet as possible
250g/9oz ripe tomatoes (the most delicious you can find, I like to use bull’s heart)
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
150g good-quality tuna in olive oil (such as Ortiz) or 8 salted anchovy fillets
A small handful of black olives (dark black Provençal for preference), pitted
1⁄2 bunch of basil leaves, picked
2 eggs, hard-boiled for seven minutes and shelled
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Rub the inside of a serving bowl with the cut garlic. Prepare the artichokes and slice them thinly lengthways. Cut the cucumber and radishes into slices, but not too thin this time.
Peel and slice the onion as thinly as possible. Cut the tomatoes into chunks, wedges or quarters depending on their size. Do not slice them too thinly or the salad may become wet as the juices seep out.
Combine the vegetables in the serving bowl. Add the olive oil and red wine vinegar, then season with salt and pepper. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Mix in the tuna or anchovies, olives and basil. Taste again. Cut the hard-boiled eggs into halves or quarters, season lightly with salt and pepper, then arrange on top of the salad. Finish with an extra drizzle of olive oil, if you feel the salad needs it.
Sardine: Simple seasonal Proven?al cooking by Alex Jackson, published by Pavilion Books.
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