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Not quite niçoise

Servings: 4
Niçoise salad is steeped in tradition, with strict rules around what goes in and what stays out. But here’s the thing: even on the French Riviera, which is where the dish originates, tourists will be surprised to discover a multitude of interpretations from the modern chefs of Nice. That’s the nature of cuisine — it’s a moveable feast. And so, this version is full of twists and turns, which I think makes the salad even Nice-r.
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Ingredients 

  • 4-5 eggs at room temperature
  • 400 g 14 oz new potatoes or kipfler (fingerling) potatoes
  • 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil plus extra for drizzling
  • sea salt flakes to taste
  • 200 g 7 oz green beans, topped, leaving the tails on
  • 200 g 7 oz cherry truss tomatoes a handful of your favourite olives pitted (see Tips)
  • 5 –6 radishes thinly sliced and refreshed in cold water until needed
  • 1 small red onion or 1 French shallot thinly sliced into rounds
  • ½ cup roughly chopped parsley
  • 250 g (9 oz) good-quality tinned tuna in spring water
  • 6 anchovies optional
  • caper berries to serve
  • lemon wedges to serve
  • Sauce gribiche
  • 2 tbsp mayonnaise see Tips
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tbsp dijon mustard
  • 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp lilliput capers in salt rinsed and drained
  • 16 cornichons (75 g/21/2 oz) finely chopped
  • 1 cup finely chopped parsley
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped tarragon or Thai basil weird, but it works!

Instructions 

  • Pop the eggs into a pan of boiling hot water from as close to the water as possible. Leave to cook for 6–8 minutes, depending on how runny you like them; 8 minutes will be hard-boiled (see Skills spotlight, page 219). Run under cold water and set aside. Peel when cooled.
  • Parboil the potatoes in plenty of well-salted water for 20–25 minutes, or until they’re fork-tender. Drain well, chop them into fork-friendly shapes, place in a large mixing bowl and gently toss with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and a pinch of salt flakes.
  • To ‘tiger’ the beans and tomatoes, place them in a bowl together and toss with the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Heat a large, heavy-based frying pan over medium heat. Once smoking hot, add the beans and leave for a minute or two to get some burnished tiger stripes, then toss and leave for another couple of minutes. Do this for 8–10 minutes, adding the tomatoes at the 5-minute mark. The beans need to be bright green with stripes of brown and black, and still have a bit of crunch. In the last couple of minutes of cooking, add the pitted olives to warm through. Add the whole lot to a bowl.
  • At this stage, if you would like to crisp up the potatoes, add them to the hot pan for 5 minutes or so over high heat to get some colour. Pop the green bean mixture back into the pan to soak up every last bit of juiciness and retain some heat while you make the sauce gribiche. Grate or finely chop two of the eggs. Place in a bowl with all the gribiche ingredients, except the herbs. Mix well and season to taste with salt and black pepper, then mix in the herbs. Set aside until ready to serve.
  • To assemble the salad, choose a large serving platter or chopping board.
  • In a large mixing bowl, give the cooked veg a gentle toss with the radish, onion, parsley, broken-up tuna chunks and anchovies, if using, seasoning to taste with salt and pepper before tumbling it all onto the platter without a care in the world. Splodge the sauce gribiche over the top.
  • Cut the remaining two eggs into quarters, or finely grate them over the top (if you’re a hard-boiled kinda gal or guy). Scatter some caper berries over, and an extra drizzle of oil. Squeeze the lemon wedges over just before serving.

Notes

Tips
I use Kewpie mayonnaise for extra umami, but whole-egg mayo will do, too.
Pit the olives by placing them on a chopping board and squishing each olive with something sturdy like the base of an olive oil bottle, the flat of your chef’s knife
or even between your fingers!
All of the ingredients can be prepared a few hours in advance and chilled, but need to be brought back to room temperature before being assembled and served.
Shortcuts
If you’re making the salad in summer, barbecue the beans and tomatoes, or just blanch the beans and leave the tomatoes raw. Instead of the sauce gribiche, use a simple Kewpie dressing.
Recipe appears in Better Cooking.

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