Salade Niçoise

I can’t quite believe I haven’t already posted a recipe for salade Niçoise, as I must have made it every summer since I was a teenager. Deciding on what exactly should or should not be in a salade Niçoise is a contentious issue: while Simon Hopkinson thinks that tuna is redundant but includes green beans and artichoke hearts, Rowley Leigh says that the salad shouldn’t have any cooked vegetables in it. My salade Niçoise has evolved from the version I learnt from my mother, which had hard-boiled eggs, potatoes, green beans, tomato, tuna and black olives served on a bed of lettuce. I now tend to include anchovies, and variously cucumber, red pepper, spring onions and/or capers. See below for a vegetarian variant of the salad too.

Finding the sort of really ripe, flavourful tomatoes that you can buy as a matter of course in the south of France is always a challenge unless you grow your own. I find large slicing tomatoes (like Jack Hawkins) better for this than regular ones, and you can sometimes get good heritage varieties in supermarkets now as well as at farmers’ markets. I have specified ridge cucumber as they are less watery; if you’re using a standard cucumber it’s worth scooping out the seeds before you chop it.  I don’t always pit the olives, though your guests will thank you if you do. I can see that cheap tinned tuna brings little to the taste or texture of the salad, but since discovering tuna bottled in oil I have become more enthusiastic about it – feel free to omit or include as you wish.

A vegetarian version can be made by leaving out the tuna and anchovies, in which case I would add some artichoke hearts (I’m not a big fan, but several recipes include them) as well as a red pepper and capers which, along with the black olives, will give the salty tang and layers of flavour you want. I’m not sure it will quite qualify as an authentic salade Niçoise, but it will be a delicious lunch.

In any case, this recipe has no pretensions to being an authentic, perfect or definitive version – it’s just what I like to eat for lunch on a sunny day, ideally sitting in the shade with a glass of chilled rosé. It looks particularly good laid out on a large platter, with good bread alongside.

For 4

4 eggs
4 new potatoes
120g green beans
200g ripe tomatoes
½ ridge cucumber
1 jar of tuna (optional)
4 spring onions
6-8 anchovy fillets
1 tbsp capers
75-100g black olives
Little Gem or other leaves to serve
A handful of parsley and/or basil

Dressing:
1 clove garlic
1 rounded tsp dijon mustard
2 tsps red wine vinegar
5 tbsps extra-virgin olive oil
salt & black pepper

Salade NicoisePut on a small pan of water to boil. Prick the egg shells at the broad end and, when the water reaches the boil, lower them into the pan, turn the heat down to a simmer and put the timer on for 8 minutes. While they’re cooking, top and tail the green beans. Wash the salad leaves – this time I used a combination of Little Gem and a few leaves of red chicory – spin to get rid of any excess water, and pop them in the fridge to stay crisp. As soon as the eggs are done, scoop them out into a colander and run under the cold tap to stop them cooking. Bring the water back to a simmer and cook the beans for 4-5 minutes. Tip them into a sieve, run under cold water (which will help keep them bright green) and set aside to drain.

You need waxy salad potatoes for this recipe – Charlottes, Maris Peer or Pink Fir Apples if you can get them. Unless you are using up left-over cooked potatoes, wash the potatoes and cut in half if large. Bring another pan of water to the boil, add the potatoes and cook for 15-20 minutes until tender to the point of a knife. Drain and leave the cool.

To make the dressing, crush the garlic in a garlic press (or with a knife on a board using a little salt). In a small bowl or jar, mix together with the mustard, wine vinegar and some salt & freshly ground black pepper, then whisk in the olive oil (or just pour in, put the lid on and shake if you are using a jar) until it is all emulsified and a glorious sunny yellow from the mustard. Everything up to this point can be done ahead of time if you wish.

Shell the eggs when they are cool enough to handle, and cut each one in half – the yolks should be only just set and deep yellow (not those nasty over-cooked, grey-ringed yolks reminiscent of school salads). Cut the tomatoes into chunks, discarding the seeds if watery. Trim the end of the cucumber and scoop out the central seeds if necessary. Cut into quarters lengthwise and then into chunks. If you are using them, thinly slice the spring onions and red pepper. Cut the potatoes into fork-sized chunks. Finely chop the herb(s).

When you are ready to assemble the salad, lay the lettuce out on the platter or plate and arrange the potatoes, beans, tomato and cucumber on top. If using the tuna, drain it thoroughly from the oil (or brine) it has been preserved in, and distribute it in chunks over the vegetables. Arrange the halved hard-boiled eggs and tear the anchovy fillets (if using) over them. I sometimes get fancy and arrange them in criss-crosses over the eggs, which looks pretty, but is far from essential. Add any other vegetables you are using, and then scatter the black olives and capers over the top. Drizzle the dressing over everything, and finish with the chopped herbs.

À table, mes amis!

Thai salad

This salad goes very well with a lot of the Indonesian dishes we like, providing a fresh, crunchy counterpoint to Nasi Goreng, Ajam Ketjap or Tomato and Prawn Curry. With some fried slices of tofu and rice (or Nasi Goreng without the bacon) it would make a good vegetarian/vegan meal – though you’ll need to use a little extra soy sauce instead of the fish sauce in the dressing.

1 cucumber
1 carrot
100g unsalted cashews
1 red pepper
2 spring onions
small packet of coriander leaves
small packet of basil

Dressing:
1 tbsp lime juice
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 dstsp fish sauce
1 tsp white wine vinegar
2 cloves garlic
1 red chilli (or 1-2 tsp chilli sauce)
1 tsp sugar
White pepper

Roast the cashews in a frying pan preheated over medium high heat, watching and turning them for a few minutes until they are starting to brown and smelling delicious. Set aside to cool.

To make the dressing, crush the garlic, finely chop the chilli and then whisk all the ingredients together in a bowl or jar (and, no, I haven’t forgotten to list the oil – that’s one of the reasons the salad so light and refreshing). Check the seasoning – you can of course use black pepper if you don’t have white – and adjust to taste.

To prepare the salad, slice the cucumber and cut the slices in half. Grate the carrot on the coarse side of the grater. Thinly slice the red pepper and spring onion.

Combine the salad vegetables in a bowl. If you’re preparing ahead cover the bowl and dressing with cling film and keep in the fridge until you’re ready to eat. Then add the cashews and  toss with the dressing. Pick the leaves of the coriander and basil and create a bed of them in a shallow serving dish. Spoon the salad on top and serve.

Gado Gado with peanut sauce

When I first read about Gado Gado I didn’t think it sounded that appetising: a salad of cold cooked vegetables with hard-boiled eggs and cold crispy onions on top. And then I had Marlene’s version and it was absolutely delicious. So I persuaded her to tell me how to make it.

Marlene served it with rice and Babi Ketjap, but you can just have the salad on its own or with chicken satay. For a vegan Gado Gado, omit the eggs and add some firm tofu sliced and fried in a little olive oil until crisp. It is quite flexible, in that you can use whatever vegetables are to hand, though bean sprouts, cucumber, cabbage and green beans are usually included, and sugar snap peas are good. It is dead easy to make, though you do have prepare the vegetables individually – unless you have cooked vegetables that you’re eating up – and you’ll find two colanders (or a colander and a sieve) useful to drain everything.

Ketjap manis is Indonesian sweet soy sauce – if you can’t find it (or don’t want yet another bottle in your pantry) then use ordinary soy sauce with 1 tsp of brown sugar or honey. You should be able to find small tubs of crispy onions alongside the Thai or Chinese ingredients in the supermarket (Waitrose include them in their Cook’s Ingredients range). I’m not sure my dedication would extend to making them myself. Prawn crackers seem to live alongside crisps (oddly, to my mind – but maybe people do eat them as a snack with their beer).

Start by making the peanut sauce – I always make lots, even if I’m only cooking for me, as it is so delicious with lots of other things! Choose peanut butter with the highest percentage of peanuts that you can find (and without sugar). You can use raw peanuts if you prefer, in which case stir fry them in a wok in 100ml of vegetable oil until they are golden, then blend until smooth in a food processor. Anna Jones uses a different method, using roasted peanuts, bashing them in a pestle and mortar and then simmering in 200ml of water, and flavouring it with lemongrass and ginger – not authentic, but sounds worth a try.

Peanut or satay sauce:
2 shallots or ½ small onion
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped (optional)
a little vegetable oil for frying
1 dstsp sambal badjak or 1 red chilli, finely chopped
½ tsp shrimp paste (terassi) or 1 tsp Thai fish sauce (optional)
250g crunchy peanut butter
Juice of about 1/2 lemon
1-2 tbsps Ketjap manis
100 ml coconut milk (optional)

Fry a chopped shallot or a bit of onion in a little oil until it is soft (you could also just use dried onion). Add the sambal or a chopped red chilli and, if you want, a little bit of terassi (Indonesian shrimp paste – notoriously smelly) or 1 tsp of Thai fish sauce, to add depth of flavour.

Stir in the peanut butter and dilute with water – you’ll need at least 200 ml and probably more. You can add the coconut milk at this stage, if you’re using it, which will make a richer sauce. Add 1-2 tbsps of ketjap manis (or soy sauce and sugar) and the lemon juice, then taste and keep adjusting the seasonings until you are happy with it. Serve warm. The sauce will thicken as it cools, so if there is any left over you may need to dilute it further with water.

Salad:
Salad potatoes
Green beans
Carrots
Cabbage (Chinese for preference)
Beansprouts
Cucumber
Red pepper
Spring onions
Eggs (1 each)
Crispy onions
Chopped chives to garnish
Prawn crackers to serve

You will notice that I haven’t given quantities – this is because you really can use whatever combination of vegetables you have, and vary the quantities according to how hungry you are and how many people you’re feeding. When I made this for myself I used a handful of beansprouts, 2 charlotte potatoes, 50g green beans, ¼ of a Chinese cabbage, 2 spring onions, about 5 cm of cucumber and ¼ of a red pepper – and had leftovers.

Bring a small pan of water to the boil, add the potatoes and simmer until tender – about 15-20 minutes depending on size. Drain and cut the potatoes into chunks unless they’re very small. Bring another pan of water to the boil, top and tail the beans and blanch them for 4-5 minutes. If you’re using carrots, cut into batons and cook along with the beans – they’ll probably need a minute or two more than the beans, so put them in first. When they are  cooked, drain them in a colander and quickly run them under the cold tap to stop the cooking (and keep the beans bright green). Leave to drain thoroughly.

Shred the cabbage. If you’re using regular white cabbage you will need to steam it for 5-8 minutes until it is tender – you can do this over the simmering potatoes. Forget the modern habit of cooking everything al dente: the cabbage needs to be tender, and tastes better for it. However, I found the Chinese cabbage I was using was closer to lettuce and only needed a brief dousing in boiling water, like the beansprouts: just put them in a colander, pour boiling water over them (you can use the boiling water from the potatoes or beans), and leave to drain.

Hard boil the eggs in barely simmering water – I add the eggs (broad end pricked to reduce the risk of cracking) to boiling water, turn the heat down to medium-low and cook for 9 minutes. Then run under cold water until cool enough to handle, peel and cut in half. Wash the cucumber and red pepper. Slice the cucumber and then halve them if you wish. Marlene runs the tines of a fork vertically down the skin all round the cucumber first, which gives an attractive deckled edge. Core the red pepper and cut into narrow slices. Trim the spring onions and slice finely.

Arrange all the vegetables, except for the spring onions, in groups on a large shallow dish. Scatter over the spring onions and arrange the hard boiled eggs on top. Finish with a scatter of chives and serve with the peanut sauce, and dishes of crispy onions and prawn crackers for people to help themselves.

Roasted cauliflower and hazelnut salad

img_2207At the farmer’s market in Marylebone last weekend I bought a beautiful big cauliflower, and then had to go on a search for good things to do with it. This Ottolenghi recipe from Jerusalem roasts the cauliflower, giving it a really nutty taste which is accentuated by the toasted hazelnuts, with celery and parsley bringing freshness and crunch. I only used half the cauliflower, as it was so big, (this is what I did with the rest of it) and have adjusted the quantities in the original recipes a little.

Eating cauliflower as a salad always reminds me of the first time I was served warm cauliflower dressed with a mustardy vinaigrette (do try it*) at the house of a friend whose mother was of French and Russian extraction;  both she and her food seemed terribly glamorous. I first had clafoutis there too.

This salad is good as a starter, as a main with, say, other grilled vegetables or chick pea salad or as the accompaniment to, for example, grilled mackerel. This quantity feeds 3 or 4 depending on how you’re serving it.

1 small or half a large head of cauliflower, broken into florets or thickly sliced (approx 450g)
3 tbsp olive oil
1 stick of celery
20g hazelnuts
small bunch flat-leaf parsley
40g pomegranate seeds (approx ½ a small pomegranate)
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp ground allspice
1 dstsp sherry vinegar
1 tsp maple syrup
salt and black pepper

Preheat the oven to 220 C/200 C Fan. I tend to slice the cauliflower, after having cut the florets away from the main stem, which gives pieces with an attractive tree-shape, and avoids the difficulty of trying to get neat florets of the same size.

img_2210Mix the cauliflower with 2 tbsp of the oil in a large roasting tin, spread it out and add salt and pepper. Roast for 25-35 minutes until the cauliflower is tender, with some brown crispy bits. Tip into a large mixing bowl and leave to cool. Meanwhile trim the ends of the celery stick and slice it on the diagonal into pieces about 0.5 cm thick. Wash the parsley and pick off the leaves.

Turn the oven down to 170 C/150 C Fan. Spread the hazelnuts on a small baking tray and roast until the skins are dark brown and cracking, which took 12 minutes in my oven, but can take another 5 minutes. I usually give the pan a shake at half time, and you do need to watch them carefully so they don’t burn (really the only remotely tricky bit of this recipe). When the nuts have cooled enough to handle, tip them into a tea towel and rub off the skins, then roughly chop them.

img_2211Add the nuts, celery, parsley, pomegranate seeds, 1 tbsp of oil and the other dressing ingredients to the dish of cauliflower and turn carefully to mix. Check the seasoning and serve at room temperature.

 

 

  • If you want to try cauliflower in vinaigrette, just trim away the leaves and any extra stem, steam the whole head until just tender and then pour over a vinaigrette made with dijon mustard, white wine vinegar and olive oil. Much more delicious than it sounds, and it looks striking when served too.

Fennel and blood orange salad

Fennel and blood orange saladI love the dramatic colour of blood oranges (or blush oranges, as they seem to have been renamed in Waitrose – why?), and this salad shows them off to perfection. It is very simple, but looks great, can be prepared an hour or so ahead and is such a good combination of flavours, especially at this time of year when one is desperate for fresh flavours and crisp textures after all the cold-weather comfort food we have been eating.

This salad is the ideal starter before a substantial main course, but I think it would also work as a side with something like duck breast, or a lentil salad. Good vinegar is essential – the sweet-sharpness of sherry vinegar is a great foil to that of the oranges. Serves 4

2 heads fennel
3 large or 4 small blood oranges
salt and pepper
3 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp sherry vinegar

Trim the fronds from the fennel, chop them finely and put on one side. Trim off the stalks and base of  the fennel bulbs, sit them upright and cut downwards into very thin slices. Arrange onto the four serving plates – I found I didn’t need all of the fennel to make four servings – drizzle over the olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

Fennel and blood orange saladUsing a serrated knife cut away the peel from the blood oranges. I cut off the top and bottom first, then work in strips cutting down and round the orange, keeping the knife as close to the pith as possible – a serrated knife really makes this much easier. You want to get rid of all traces of pith without losing too much flesh or juice. Then slice the oranges across into 0.5 cm slices and arrange five or six slices on top of each plate of fennel, removing any pips or pith from the centre as you go. Drizzle ½ tsp of sherry vinegar over each serving of oranges and sprinkle with the reserved fennel fronds. A final grind of black pepper and you’re ready to serve, ideally with some good sourdough bread. If you wanted extra greenery, some rocket might make a good addition.

White Bean and Tuna Fish Salad

From Delia Smith, How to Cook Book two, as recommended by Marion, when we went down to stay in Firle.
4 as main, 6 as starter

250g cannellini beans (can use 2 tins)
25g rocket, stalks removed
2 x 200g tins tuna fish in oil
50g red onion, sliced into thin rounds
salt & black pepper
Dressing:
3 tbsps extra virgin olive oil
1 heaped tsp mustard powder
grated zest 1 lemon
1 rounded tsp black peppercorns
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1 level tbsp Maldon sea salt

Begin this the night before you are going to make the salad by placing the beans in a bowl and covering them with cold water to soak. Next day, drain the beans, then put them in a large saucepan, cover with fresh water and bring them up to simmering point. Boil for 10 minutes, then cover and simmer gently for 1¼-1½ hours, or until tender.
Meanwhile, empty the tuna fish into a sieve fitted over a bowl and allow it to drain, reserving the oil. Then, to make the dressing, first crush the garlic and salt using a pestle and mortar till the garlic is pulverised, then work the mustard powder into this. Now push the mixture to one side, add the peppercorns and crush these fairly coarsely. Next add the grated lemon zest, along with the lemon juice, olive oil and 3 tablespoons of the reserved tuna oil (the rest of the tuna oil can be discarded). Whisk everything together very thoroughly, then, when the beans are cooked, drain them, rinse out the saucepan and return the beans to it. Now pour the dressing over while the beans are still warm, give everything a good stir and season generously.
To serve the salad, arrange three-quarters of the rocket leaves over the base of a serving dish, spoon the beans on top and add the tuna fish in chunks. Then add the rest of the rocket leaves, pushing some of the leaves and chunks of tuna right in amongst the beans. Finally, arrange the onion slices on top and serve straight away, allowing people to help themselves. Warm, crusty ciabatta bread would be an excellent accompaniment.

Salad of Mushrooms and Roasted Squash

From Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall’s Veg Everyday. Irene made it for Saturday night supper and it was absolutely delicious. Would be nice with crusty bread. Serves 4 or 6-8 as a starter.

Salad of Mushroom and Roasted Squash, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, Photo Susannah Charlton
Photo Susannah Charlton

1 small squash, about 1 kg
12 sage leaves
4 garlic cloves
100ml rapeseed or olive oil
large knob of butter
300g open-cap mushrooms, thickly sliced (we used slightly more)
a small bunch of rocket (or watercress)
150g blue cheese (Stilton, Saint Agur) or goat’s cheese
Dressing:
3 tbsps oil
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar

Preheat oven to 190 C/Mark 5. Peel, halve and deseed the squash. Cut into 2-3 cm chunks and put into a roasting tin with the sage leaves, garlic, all but 1 tbsp of the oil and a generous seasoning of salt and pepper. Roast for about 40 mins, stirring once, or until soft and coloured at the edges.

Put the remaining oil and the knob of butter in a frying pan and place over medium heat. Throw in the mushrooms with a little salt and pepper and fry for 4-5 mins, or until they are cooked through and any liquid they release has evaporated.

Whisk together the oil and vinegar for the dressing, and add salt and pepper.

In a large bowl combine the still-warm (but not hot) squash and mushrooms with the rocket and cheese. Add enough dressing to coat lightly (you may not need all of it), toss together and serve.