We are in the midst of a mini heatwave in Sri Lanka. Now don’t laugh because you reckon Sri Lanka is around 30 degrees all year around. You are very wrong. Hot days during the monsoon season are hotter than during the dry season…why? I haven’t got clue but anyway it’s hot and I’m craving salad food.
Salade Niçoise has to be one of my favourite salads ever. It is yummy and easy to make in Sri Lanka because the ingredients are all available.
However, when we talk of ingredients for a ‘true’ Salade Niçoise (born in the city of Nice in the South of France) we are entering hot water. What should and shouldn’t be included – I am easy on this. It’s a French dish so stick to French ingredients and those which are fresh and readily available where you are. Are boiled vegetables acceptable – perhaps they weren’t in the original recipe but I like french beans and baby potatoes in the salad; preferably cooked! One thing I feel strongly about is the tuna issue – canned or fresh? I have eaten both and must admit to much preferring the canned tuna here. If I wanted to eat seared tuna steak I would have. It should be (in my opinion) good quality tuna steak (yep the expensive stuff) in OIL, not brine or that cardinal sin – tuna chunks in brine. Oil is important because it flavours the tuna you could even use use it to dress the salad. The rest of the ingredients are cheap so splash out on decent tuna and olives (and anchovies if you use them – I don’t if I have tuna…I do replace the tuna with them sometimes depending on my mood).
- 2 cans of good quality tuna steak, preferably in olive oil but any oil will do.
- 250 g small or baby potatoes, peeled, boiled and cut into bite-sized chunks or unpeeled, boiled & halved if baby variety.
- 250 g french beans, boiled
- Some lettuce – the crispier the better in my view, to use as a base, roughly chopped
- 2 large juicy tomatoes, sliced
- 1 red onion, sliced
- 3 nearly hard-boiled eggs, I like the yolk not quite set, quartered
- Olives (as many as you want) – Niçoise or kalamata work well. Please no purple, stuffed or marinated crappy ones.
- Capers (as many as you want) – optional but choose the little ones if using
- Anchovies (optional – use good quality ones if using)
For the dressing:
- 3 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil (or use a bit from the canned tuna if good quality oil if you like it fishy)
- 2 tbsp. lemon or lime juice
- 1/2 tsp. Dijon mustard
- 1 clove garlic, very finely minced
- salt and pepper
For the dressing: mix the minced garlic with salt and pound in a pestle and mortar. Add olive oil, lemon juice, pepper and mustard and mix well. Some use fresh herbs such as tarragon , basil or oregano but you can’t get them easily in Sri Lanka so I don’t.
Arrange the lettuce, potatoes and french beans on a plate. Top this with the tomatoes, onion, tuna (broken into chunks), olives, eggs, anchovies (if using) and capers. Drizzle over the dressing.