June 30, 2016 — Dinner Party

A Classic French Salad Niçoise Recipe

  • 30 minutes
  • 4 PEOPLE
  • easy

‘I’m a salad guy, so much so that my colleagues call me ‘The Rabbit’ at work… and I always look forward to a weekend salad that Dad puts together around summer. It’s packed full of greens, little anchovies and yummy hard-boiled eggs, topped off with a crusty brown roll… maybe some butter too :p.’

'Summers here a what better time for the French classic Salad Niçoise!'

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What you need

1 medium head of broccoli or 400g green beans (when in season)

500g salad potatoes – preferably Jersey Royals

400g ripe tomatoes

1 large tin of tuna in oil

1 tin of anchovy fillets

6 eggs

2 large little gem lettuces – or other lettuce type

Chopped fresh chives

Black olives

White wine vinegar

Good olive oil

Salt and pepper


To serve

Good artisan crusty bread


Dad's Recipe Tales

But what about the beans?

WDC likes to cook with seasonal produce. So a salad Niçoise presents a problem. Normally, salad Niçoise is made with beans. This means I can only eat a Niçoise when beans are in season. Although the English season is long enough to eat plenty of salad Niçoise – it does not start until quite late in the summer. So what do I do if I want my Niçoise earlier?

I use broccoli instead. Ahh, I hear you say, broccoli has a similar season to beans (June, July August), my broccoli might come from Spain or Italy.

Okay, I have to make some exceptions…

But supermarket shelves are stacked high with beans all year round. Are the supermarkets hoodwinking us into thinking that the beans are ‘seasonal’ even in winter? Well, growing beans in countries with hot climates can replicate the English growing season all year round – in a globalised world economy we can all have a perpetual supply of summer beans! But I have issues buying produce from Africa or South America. I worry about the air miles and I worry about politics affecting the cash flows to farmers.

Ahh, I hear you say again, you must buy avocados all year round – and what about all those bananas and pineapples – they cannot be grown in a non-tropical country.

Yes, more exceptions I’m afraid…

A desperate attempt to maintain seasonality in cooking…

Despite global trends, we should all try to maintain some seasonality in our cooking. It does not seem right to eat beans all year round – when we can wait with eager anticipation for the summer crops. We shall enjoy them all the more.

Seasonality helps us to appreciate a sense of time and place – to locate ourselves on a culinary calendar that ebbs and flows with the natural rhythm of the seasons. Take beans. To grow your own beans is a pure delight. They are easy and bountiful. The growing, harvesting and eating all express the quintessential essence of ‘summer’.  And nothing tastes quite so special.

So if my ethics and concerns about seasonal food are a little leaky, I will hold out for at least beans – and buy them only when they are in season.

How Dad Cooked It

This salad is a classic combination of a few key ingredients – it must include either tuna or anchovies, eggs and green beans (see my recipe tale above…). But I always treat it as an improvisation based on what’s in the fridge and store cupboard. If I have eggs and tuna then I have the basis of a Niçoise… 

  1. Cook the potatoes. Wash but don’t peel tender small salad potatoes. Cut them in half horizontally so you have two flat shell-like halves. Boil in salted water until tender. Drain and then add a couple teaspoons of vinegar and slosh the potatoes around in the pan until evenly coated, then add a tablespoon of olive oil and a good grinding of pepper – continue moving the pan to evenly coat, put to one side with the lid ajar on the pan.
  2. Boil the eggs. Ahh – but for how long? Very good question… It depends on so many things that if I – or anybody else – attempt to tell you precisely we will be wrong. So it’s best to do a trial with individual eggs, peeling and cutting to see the result of your timings – then replicating for the remainder. NB: The eggs in my photo were, large free range white eggs taken from the fridge and plunged in lots of boiling water. They were boiled for 8 minutes and then drained and rested for 1 minute and then plunged into cold water. I like them cooked so they hard but soft – if you see what I mean – if any part is still runny, I find this can be cloying and leave an uncomfortably raw eggy taste in the mouth…
  3. Cook the greens. Just until tender. Plunge in cold water to stop cooking and keep the colour bright green.
  4. Drain the fish. Don’t be tempted to use the oil. It is a very strange phenomenon: although the fish is kept perfectly well and is very tasty – the oil it is kept in is almost wretchingly fishy and metallic. Put it in your recycling pot – not your food.
  5. Finish the salad. Wash and spin the lettuce, cut the tomatoes how you like, chop the chives, make a dressing 3 to 1 oil to vinegar and season with salt and pepper, peel and cut the eggs in half. Assemble on a large serving plate or individual plates. First lettuce, then potatoes and greens, then tomatoes, finally position the eggs and scatter tuna and anchovy around. Sprinkle with chopped chives and garnish with black olives.
  6. Serve. With crusty bread.
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