Pan bagnat, literally ‘soaked bread’, is another great Niçoise speciality, which is just as well because it is basically ‘Salade Niçoise in a Bun’. I appreciate that this may not seem the most attractive proposition in the gastronomic world but, as they say, ‘You had to be there.’ ‘There’, in my case, was the old town in Nice; ‘when’ was 1976, and my first holiday as an adult on the Riviera. A year at my first cooking job, the Old Compton Wine Bar, hadn’t reduced my interest in food, rather it had fanned it into an obsession. An impecunious foodie Tour de France was a great treat to myself, culminating in a week in Nice. It was probably ominous that I found the food of this region the most appealing. Ominous, in that the food of this area belongs more to Italy than France (in fact the region itself belonged to the kingdom of Savoy until the reunification of Italy in 1860), and from this trip on, French food had a steadily decreasing influence on my cooking, being largely replaced by Italian.
The original type of bread used for this was unobtainable anywhere other than Nice. This posed a problem when, on returning from this holiday, I put it on the menu. Life is much simpler these days, as far as obtaining ingredients goes. Ciabatta, non-existent in 1976, is the perfect substitute.
Slice the loaves in half horizontally and scoop out about a third of their soft interiors. Fill the sandwiches with the salad (you might be advised to cut the ingredients
© 1999 Alastair Little. All rights reserved.