I can’t help but come to the conclusion that there is more debate about this recipe than any other. Not mine per se, but in general. There seems to be an argument for and against each ingredient and when there is consensus, there is debate about its type or preparation. Lettuce is a good example. Many cooks argue passionately about its inclusion. And if you do decide to included lettuce, should it be cos or iceberg? This makes finding the original recipe almost impossible. The only true agreement and understanding is that you use tinned tuna and that it is the most famous salad from Nice, France.
So, what makes a good Salade Niçiose? It can be deconstructed (which is the culinary word of the moment) where each element is segmented; or it can be lovingly mixed where all the ingredients are brought together in balanced harmony. I prefer the mixed version so that each mouthful I take represents the entire dish. I want to eat the Salade Niçose as it was intended, not in neatly placed sections of the plate as if it were a piece of abstract art. I want the egg to break up and enrich the dressing and nourish the tuna, lettuce, beans and tomatoes.
Here is my definition of a good dish: if you want to eat it when it is placed in front of you then it is a good one. If you’d happily go back for more, then it is a great one.
150g long green beans, topped and never tailed.
4 hard boiled eggs – it is up to you if you like the yolk hard or soft
250g tuna, tinned and oil based – don’t discard the oil.
100g baby roma tomatoes, sliced in half
2 spring onions, finely sliced
1 baby cos lettuce, washed and dried
a good handful of marinated black olives, preferably pipped
1 garlic clove
2 tbs olive oil
1 tbs verjuice
1 tsp Dijon mustard
2-3 anchovy fillets
Salt and pepper to taste
Boil the eggs for 6-8 minutes and let them cool for a few minutes before peeling the shells. Cut them into quarter segments. Place the beans in simmering salted water until their green colour is vibrant and fresh. Drain and place them to one side.
Rub the serving bowl with the peeled clove of garlic.
Add the olive oil and anchovy fillets to a large mixing bowl. Use a fork to mix the two together, breaking up the fillets to a smooth paste. Add the mustard and verjuice and mix well, seasoning with salt and pepper. Remember the anchovies will be salty, so taste as you go.
Place the cos lettuce, beans, tomatoes, eggs, tuna, olives and spring onions in the bowl on top of the dressing. Use you very clean dry hands to gently toss the ingredients, delving into the dressing and bringing it to the top of the dish.
Transfer the salad to the serving bowl rubbed with garlic and take it to the table.