This simple old-fashioned salad is one of my absolute favourites. It can be quite delicious when it’s made with a crisp lettuce, good homegrown Irish tomatoes and cucumbers, free-range eggs and home-preserved beetroot. If on the other hand you make it with pale battery eggs, watery tomatoes, tired lettuce and cucumber and—worst of all — vinegary beetroot from a jar, you’ll wonder why you bothered!
We serve this traditional salad in Ballymaloe as a starter, with an old-fashioned salad dressing which would have been popular before the days of mayonnaise.
Hard-boil the eggs for the Salad and the Dressing: bring a small saucepan of water to the boil, gently slide in the eggs, boil for 10 minutes (12 if they are very fresh), strain off the hot water and cover with cold water. Peel when cold.
Wash and dry the lettuce and scallions.
Next make the Dressing. Cut 2 eggs in half, sieve the yolks into a bowl, add the sugar, a pinch of salt and the mustard. Blend in the vinegar and cream. Chop the egg whites and add some to the sauce. Keep the rest to scatter over the salad. Cover the Dressing until needed.
Arrange a few lettuce leaves on each of 4 plates. Scatter a few quartered tomatoes and 2 hard-boiled egg quarters, a few slices of cucumber and 1 radish or 2 slices of beetroot on each plate. Garnish with spring onion and watercress, scatter the remaining chopped egg white (from the Dressing) over the Salad and some chopped parsley.
Put a tiny bowl of Lydia’s Dressing in the centre of each plate and serve immediately while the salad is crisp and before the beetroot starts to run. Alternatively, the Dressing may be served from one large bowl.
© 1989 Darina Allen. All rights reserved.