It’s quite entertaining browsing through the literature on salade Niçoise, people get quite uppity about the ingredients. The tuna gets particular attention, some saying cooked tuna is anathema, whereas others say tinned tuna is unnecessary. I have not included tuna. I think tuna and anchovies is too much here. The point of this recipe is to highlight the asparagus in a Niçoise setting. I felt tuna would steal the show (even though the combination of tuna and asparagus is very good: see asparagus and tuna sesame recipe). Therefore, I have used anchovies only – to provide a vibrant background seasoning. Some also include onions. Although the piquancy and summery-al-fresco flavour of raw onion is good, I found the repeating flavour difficult. Perhaps, you need to buy your onions in Nice, where they will be sweet and mild. I’ve suggested chives as an optional alternative, but even these can be quite strong… All of which demonstrates that when it comes to Niçoise, it’s all about personal taste. So let’s not get carried away, the basics of the salad is the general association of egg, green salads, vegetables, potato and tinned fish – a theme designed for variations…
1 round lettuce and two little gem lettuces
650g Jersey Royal potatoes or other salad potato
4 medium or large eggs at room temperature
200g baby plum tomatoes
4 large dessert spoons of black olives
4 tbs salted capers
90g anchovies in oil
Fresh chopped parsley (optional)
Fresh chopped chives (optional)
3 tbs red wine vinegar
9 tbs (135ml) good olive oil
1. For the asparagus, snap off the woody base of the stems by bending the spears with your hands. Peel the stalks only if thick and tough. Put the spears into a large and shallow saucepan, cover with boiling water, add a little salt and bring back to the boil. Cook the spears for 2 minutes, drain and plunge in cold water, drain again and set aside.
2. For the potatoes, peel, wash and chop the potatoes into small chunks and add to a large pan of water. Add half a teaspoon of salt to the water and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes or until the potatoes are tender but firm. Drain and rinse briefly under cold water, drain again and set aside.
3. Boiling the perfect egg for this type of salad depends on the size of egg, its temperature and the thickness of its shell. A medium standard egg will take about 5 minutes, a large standard egg will take about 6. However, an egg with a thick shell may take longer. It’s best to test and adjust times, or err on side of safety and boil for a little longer. Bring a pan up to a boil, but put the eggs in while the water is just under a boil. Bring back to a boil and time. Take the eggs out and put in a bowl of cold water for 10 minutes before shelling and cutting in half. Set aside.
4. Wash the salt off the capers and soak for 5 minutes. Rinse again and squeeze out the water. Set aside. Wash and dry the lettuce and cut the tomatoes in half.
5. To make the salad – arrange as you like. I like to make separate sections of ingredients, either in individual wide bowls or a large serving dish. Start with layering round lettuce and little gem leaves, add the potatoes, eggs, asparagus and tomatoes. Pile the olives and capers in the middle. Drain the anchovies, snip into pieces and scatter these over the top.
6. To make the dressing, whisk the oil and vinegar together and season with salt and pepper to taste. Drizzle over the salad and sprinkle chopped fresh herbs over the top if using.
RT @Bevansbutchers: Some of you may have noticed that we had a little photo shoot outside of the shop this morning, well we couldn’t be mor…