Food: Nice one

A salade Nicoise without garlic doesn't deserve the name, says Simon Hopkinson

The first work I did for this magazine in its present format was an article on salade Nicoise. Recently, I have had many a discussion - well, argument to be frank, over the constituents of a "true" Nice salad.

The most recent disagreement has been over the inclusion of garlic. Now, to my mind, garlic is so de rigueur as a seasoning here that not to include it is fully missing the point of the whole composition. Along with a reasonably good olive oil, chopped garlic is as important a flavour in the salad's dressing as a couple of spindly spring onions and some home- made salad cream are in an English high-tea salad.

Then there is the secondary rumpus - tuna. I never understand why people like cooked, tinned tuna at all (half the time, I don't actually believe they do). The pontificators drone that la veritable salade Nicoise could not even be considered without the inclusion of these flakes - or unsightly chunks in the more loutish renditions - of deeply boring, tinned fish. All I can say is, give me more of the tinned, pink anchovy fillet than a few forkings of tuna from a smart-looking can. Tuna is best eaten raw with Japanese horseradish and a bathing of soy. Then, it is not only delicious, but one of the very finest dishes in the world.

The description "salad", to many, still means something that includes lettuce leaves. That is not to say that the term has not also strayed in the other direction. I have eaten "salads" of mussels; of fillets of red mullet the size of a squashed little finger (is it really necessary to bone a fish of these dimensions?); and also from such things as crunchy sweetbreads - or "croustillant de ris de veau" as it is known in French menu-speak. Actually, this epithet "crunchy" is getting jolly common on the continental gastronomic hurdy-gurdy these days. We need a few more "sloppys" and the odd "loose", I feel, before we end up with damaged gums.

But these so-called salads are not really that at all. More often than not, there is a neat little teetering pile of the advertised ingredient, a minuscule ruff of lollo rosso, one listing sprig of chervil and a larger amount of sauce that you might genuinely expect in a salad. But there you go. Most of them have been very good, I have to admit, but they ain't been a salad. Mind you, I wouldn't exactly know what to call them. A composition? However, I did once see a dish of different bits of duck, which was jauntily entitled "a declension". I kid you not, mon brave.

I have always thought that a few crisp leaves are necessary in a Nicoise salad, but, of late, I am not sure. Essentially, it is simply a salad of vegetables. But if you do decide to use a verdant stalk of some sort, introduce a few sprigs of rocket (but not too much), which seems somehow appropriate to the region and can be nice, together with some fronds of mildly aniseed-flavoured sprigs of chervil, and a few basil leaves. The herbs will add flavour, too, with chervil, for once, being generously utilised for itself and not just flung willy-nilly as a garnish over everything.

I have always enjoyed vegetable salads; soft and recently warm from a last-minute cooking of the ingredients. Take the perennial one made from waxy potatoes: use the rare, pink fir apple variety, preferably cooked in its skin then quickly peeled whilst still warm. Dress with a vinaigrette made from mustard, a splash of good vinegar, seasoning, and an oil that will not dominate the proceedings. One must fully understand that olive oil is not always the appropriate lubrication. The dressing should simply smear the potatoes and not be claggy - make it in a food processor or liquidiser, so that the consistency becomes that of single cream, homogenising in an instant.

A recipe for this potato salad will follow next week, along with a similar one using green beans and anchovies - for me, the soul of a salade Nicoise. There will also be a sweet-and-sour salad of courgettes, a warm fennel salad cooked in the Greek style - or, more familiarly, a la Grecque, and, of course, my own, very personal recipe for salade Nicoise, repeated for the first time in two years. The anticipation will surely torture you for seven whole days.

Following this vegetarian fiesta will be a further scarlet orgy of tomato recipes to celebrate the harvest of these (lately) warm September weeks, but there will also be meat and fish included, so don't feel you have been too deprived of protein

`The Prawn Cocktail Years' by Simon Hopkinson & Lindsey Bareham is published on 24 October. To reserve a pre-publication copy at the special price of pounds 15 p&p free, call 0181- 324 5700

Suggested Topics
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Dunham
booksLena Dunham's memoirs - written at the age of 28 - are honest to the point of making you squirm
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey
tvDownton Abbey review: It's six months since we last caught up with the Crawley clan
Sport
Frank Lampard and his non-celebration
premier leagueManchester City vs Chelsea match report from the Etihad Stadium
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Life and Style
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
techNew app offers 'PG alternative' to dating services like Tinder
News
Jacqueline Bisset has claimed that young women today are obsessed with being 'hot', rather than 'charming', 'romantic' or 'beautiful'
people
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden sings his heart out in his second audition
tvX Factor: How did the Jakes - and Charlie Martinez - fare?
Sport
premier league
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave crime series
Sport
Mario Balotelli celebrates his first Liverpool goal
premier leagueLiverpool striker expressed his opinion about the 5-3 thriller with Leicester - then this happened
News
Britain's shadow chancellor Ed Balls (L) challenges reporter Rob Merrick for the ball during the Labour Party versus the media soccer match,
peopleReporter left bleeding after tackle from shadow Chancellor in annual political football match
Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says
tvSpoiler warning: Star of George RR Martin's hit series says viewers have 'not seen the last' of him/her
News
i100
News
i100
Sport
Plenty to ponder: Amir Khan has had repeated problems with US immigration because of his Muslim faith and now American television may shun him
boxing
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Head of Marketing and Communications - London - up to £80,000

    £70000 - £80000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Group Head of Marketing and Communic...

    Nursery Nurse

    Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: Level 3 Nursery Nurse required for ...

    Nursery Nurse

    Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: L3 Nursery Nurses urgently required...

    SEN Teaching Assistant

    Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: We have a number of schools based S...

    Day In a Page

    A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

    Not That Kind of Girl:

    A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

    In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

    Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
    Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

    Model mother

    Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
    Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

    Apple still the coolest brand

    Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments