Like ratatouille, and as you can tell from its name, Salade Niçoise comes from Nice. The version we eat has several inauthentic elements (lettuce? cucumber?), or so Antonia was told by the French teacher who assessed her at 11+. It is a firm family favourite, and the reason you all learned to make a vinaigrette at a young age. A quirkier reason for this salad’s special place in family history is that it provided a vehicle for learning about world religions: there was a heady period when Dom and Zita, inspired by a poster taped to the fridge, would make a Salade Niçoise weekly for Saturday lunch, arranging it each time into a distinctive religious symbol. The Om was a triumph.
1 romaine lettuce, cut or torn into chunks
½ cucumber, halved lengthwise and sliced into chunks
3 tomatoes, halved lengthwise and sliced into chunks
12 new potatoes
100g fine green beans, trimmed
40g pitted black olives
3 large eggs
2 tins tuna steak (in water or brine)
1 tin anchovies (optional)
1 tbsp capers (optional)
Handful of basil leaves, torn into pieces if large (optional)
100ml extra virgin olive oil
2tbsp white wine vinegar
1tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 heaped tsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp honey
Salt & pepper
A good hour before you plan to eat, put the potatoes and eggs in the base of a steamer pan. Cover with cold water and bring to the boil. Once the water is boiling, put the green beans (salted) on to steam above and set your timer for four minutes. Remove the beans after this time, refresh under cold water – this keeps them green – and set aside to cool. Set your timer for another four minutes. When the buzzer goes next, your eggs will be cooked: fish them out, crack slightly to halt their cooking and plunge into a bowl of cold water. Leave the potatoes to cook for a further 7-8 minutes, then drain and leave to cool before slicing them in half.
Put all the dressing ingredients in a jar, shake to combine, taste and adjust seasoning.
To assemble the salad, start with lettuce, then layer on the cucumber, tomato, halved potatoes, olives and capers (if using). Drain the tuna and place in the centre of the salad; peel and quarter the eggs, and arrange artistically around the bowl. Top with the green beans, anchovies (if using) and a scattering of basil leaves. Pour over about ⅔ of the dressing but don’t bother tossing it in: that happens when people dig in with the salad servers. Eat with plenty of crusty bread.