05 May Mackerel Niçoise
Wasn’t it such a delicious surprise to have a gloriously sunny Bank Holiday Monday earlier this week? I hope you were able to enjoy it and relish it to the full. Perhaps you were even able to fire up the BBQ and eat outside, al fresco. Our relationship with the weather is quite a curious one, and, for me at least, there’s a certain amount of anxiety that comes with a sunny day. Will it start to rain before I get the BBQ fired up? Will it be sunny tomorrow? Please, weather gods, let us have a good summer! The other side to our rare sunny days is that, boy, do we soak up those rays when they’re with us (don’t forget your sun cream!).
Sunny weather calls for summery salads, and you can’t get much better than the classic niçoise. This salad was born in the French city of Nice in the late 19th century, and was composed of tomatoes, anchovies and olive oil. A recipe from 1903 written by Henri Heyraud included tomatoes, anchovies, artichokes, olive oil, red pepper and black olives.
The niçoise salad grew in popularity in the 20th Century and evolved into the salad we know today, which is typically associated with tuna, green beans and boiled eggs, though traditionalists do get a bit cross about these variations on the original theme. When the Michelin-starred chef Héléne Darroze posted a salade niçoise recipe on Facebook that included cooked potatoes and green beans in 2016, purists decried the recipe as being a “sacrilege”.
Though of course tradition has its place, it’s also fun to innovate and adapt recipes, taking inspiration from the old to create something new. So perhaps I’m being provocative calling this salad Mackerel Niçoise. Maybe it would more appropriate to call it Mackerel Niçoise-ish.
Either way, I’ve combined what I have come to associate with salade niçoise and, because of my aversion to tinned tuna, have used smoked mackerel combined with green beans, tomatoes, black olives, boiled egg and the controversial cooked potato. This salad makes a great addition to a BBQ buffet but it’s also a really satisfying supper in its own right, best served alongside some crusty bread.
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cooking Time: 10 minutes
5 baby potatoes
4 ripe tomatoes
Quarter of a red onion
8 black olives
200g green beans
100g smoked mackerel
3 tablespoons of olive oil
1 tablespoon of red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon of lemon juice
1 teaspoon of Dijon mustard
1. Place the potatoes and the egg in a small saucepan of cold water. Bring to the boil and simmer for 5 minutes. Carefully remove the egg and place under cold water to stop the cooking process. Set aside. Let the potatoes boil for another 5 minutes, or until tender. Drain and set aside to cool.
2. Slice the tomatoes into quarters. Slice the red onion into very thin half moon shapes. Slice the black olives in half. Add the tomatoes, red onion slices and black olives into a large mixing bowl. Slice the cool baby potatoes and add them to the mixing bowl. Finally add the green beans.
3. Peel the cooled egg and slice in half.
4. Make the dressing by mixing together the olive oil, red wine vinegar, lemon juice and mustard. Add half of the dressing to the large bowl with the salad ingredients and mix well.
5. Flake the smoked mackerel into the large bowl. Mix with the salad ingredients. Season with a generous pinch of salt and pepper.
6. Divide the salad into two bowls and add half a boiled egg to each bowl. Serve with the rest of the dressing on the side alongside some crusty bread.
Storecupboard Essential: Olives
They’re not everyone’s cup of tea but olives for me are the taste of sunnier climes. I’ve long been a fan of The Real Olive Company, who have stalls brimming with brined treats in markets all over the country, including the Temple Bar Food Market and The Green Door Market in Dublin, The Milk Market in Limerick, and The English Market in Cork. Their buckets of marinated olives are the real deal. Find them on www.therealoliveco.com.
This recipe first appeared in The Irish Independent on May 4th 2017