Salade Niçoise

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This once-famous dish has fallen into disrepute, as abortive and rather nasty versions have been served in questionable homage to one of the most original dishes to have evolved in Nice. I like to serve it in the restaurant with seared fresh tuna steaks, but there is nothing wrong at all with using good quality canned tuna in olive oil.

For me, a good Salade Niçoise prepared from the freshest ingredients will always be redolent of Provence. You can almost hear the cicadas. Well... almost.

Ingredients

  • 12 new potatoes
  • 225g/8 oz extra fine French beans
  • 1 lettuce, preferably Little Gem or Cos
  • 4 large plum tomatoes
  • 4 fresh eggs
  • 4 fresh 85g/3oz tuna steaks, or 225g/8 oz best-quality Spanish or Italian canned tuna in olive oil, drained
  • 55g/2 oz canned anchovy fillets in oil, drained
  • 20 stoned black olives
  • extra virgin olive oil

For the Anchovy Dressing

  • 1 egg
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 handful of flat leaf parsley
  • 55 g/2 oz canned anchovy fillets, drained
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 tbsp tomato ketchup (Sainsbury's Italian is brilliant - pace Pierre Koffmann)
  • 250 ml/8 fl oz sunflower oil
  • 5 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • black pepper

Utensils

  • 2 or 3 saucepans large bowl
  • food processor

Method

Mise en Place

Prepare the vegetables: boil the new potatoes in salted water until just tender. Cook the green beans in fast-boiling salted water. Taste after 3 minutes. If not done, check again after another minute. The current fashion for near raw beans is, in my view, wrong. They should not be woody, but al dente. When done to your liking, drain the beans and plunge them into cold water • Trim the lettuce, discarding the outer leaves. Wash and spin or pat dry • Slice the tomatoes in wedges.

Boil the eggs for 6 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and leave the eggs to sit in the hot water for a further 2 minutes, then refresh in cold water for 3 minutes. Drain, shell and cut the eggs into quarters.

Make the anchovy dressing: put all the ingredients except the oil in a food processor. Process to a smooth paste and then add sunflower oil and olive oil in a thin stream through the feeder tube, until the dressing is the consistency of double cream. Season with black pepper.

Put all the salad ingredients except the eggs and tomatoes into a large bowl. The amount of lettuce you use should be about half the volume of the whole salad. Pour over 4 tablespoons of the anchovy dressing and toss thoroughly to coat • If using fresh tuna, preheat a hot grill or griddle.

Cooking

If you have been able to get hold of fresh tuna, brush the steaks with olive oil and sear under a preheated hot grill or on a griddle pan for 60 seconds on each side. The tuna should be pink in the middle.

Serving

Heap equal amounts of the salad on 4 plates. Arrange the tomato slices and egg quarters around the outside. Put a tuna steak on top of each serving or flake over the canned tuna. Drizzle olive oil over the top and serve with the best bread you can buy.

This is one of those dishes where a good, dry rosé makes the perfect accompaniment. The very best rosé is Château de Sours which is made by an Englishman, Esme Johnson, who turned to viticulture very successfully after selling Majestic Wines. Strangely, this wine is not from Provence, but from Bordeaux and is technically called a clairet.