Salade Nicoise

This is one of the best combinations of salad ingredients ever invented. Slick restaurants often attempt to do trendy versions with salmon, char-grilled tuna and the like, but the original reigns supreme. In Provence lettuce was sometimes used, sometimes not, but I now like to abandon the lettuce in favour of a few rocket leaves.

Serves 4-6 as a light lunch

This recipe adapted from Delia Smith’s Complete Cookery Course, Delia Smith’s Complete Illustrated Cookery Course, How to Cook Book Two and The Delia Collection: Fish.

Salade Nicoise
 12 oz (350 g) red ripe tomatoes
 4 oz (110g) rocket, stalks removed
 ½ small young cucumber, cut into smallish chunks
 1 lb (450 g) new potatoes, cooked and sliced
 4 oz (110 g) French beans, cooked and halved diagonally
 2 x 200 g tins tuna fish in oil, well drained
 4 shallots, peeled and finely chopped
 2 x 6-minute hard-boiled eggs, peeled and quartered (see recipe below)
 2 oz (50 g) anchovy fillets
 2 oz (50 g) black olives
For the vinaigrette dressing:
 1 teaspoon Maldon sea salt
 1 clove garlic, peeled
 1 rounded teaspoon mustard powder
 1 tablespoon wine or balsamic vinegar
 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh herbs (chives, parsley, basil or chervil)
 freshly milled black pepper


To make the vinaigrette dressing, start off with a pestle and mortar. First of all crush the flakes of sea salt to a powder, then add the peeled clove of garlic and pound them together, which will immediately bring out the garlic's juices and turn it into a smooth paste.

Next add the mustard powder, work that in, then add the vinegar and some freshly milled black pepper and mix thoroughly until the salt dissolves. Finally, add the olive oil. Now stir the herbs into the vinaigrette – it will look rather thick but will spread itself out beautifully once you toss it into the salad.

Just before you dress the salad, pour everything into a screw-top jar and shake vigorously so it's thoroughly blended.

For the salad, begin by preparing the tomatoes. Place them in a bowl, pour boiling water over them, then, after 1 minute, drain and slip off their skins, protecting your hands with a cloth if you need to.

Now cut each tomato in half and hold each half in the palm of your hand (cut side up), then turn your hand over and squeeze gently until the seeds come out; it's best to do this over a plate or bowl to catch the seeds. Now cut each tomato into quarters. Then, in a large salad bowl, arrange the tomatoes, rocket leaves, cucumber, potatoes, beans and chopped shallots in layers, sprinkling a little of the dressing in as you go.

Next arrange chunks of tuna and egg quarters on top, then arrange the anchovies in a criss-cross pattern, followed by a scattering of olives, and a final sprinkling of dressing.

Now you need to serve the salad fairly promptly, and needless to say it needs lots of warm, crusty baguette with Normandy butter to go with it.

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