The “authentic” ingredients of a salade niçoise are debatable – potato and tuna being the most contentious. Most Niçois would argue that the classic version doesn’t contain tuna, but I choose to serve my salad with seared tuna steak as I think they make beautiful partners. More often than not, a restaurant’s niçoise is a failure because it has not been dressed properly or the dressing has no flavour. You might look at the ingredient list and think it’s hard to go wrong, but believe me, a bad niçoise can be very, very bad.
For the french dressing
50g dijon mustard
50ml white wine vinegar
25ml sherry vinegar
1 small garlic clove, crushed
300ml extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper
For the salad
200g small salad potatoes, peeled if desired
100g long French beans, trimmed
2 little gem (baby) lettuces, leaves separated
4 hard-boiled eggs, cut into quarters
8 anchovies, in oil, drained
16 cherry tomatoes
½ red onion, sliced
12 pitted black olives
1 fennel bulb, sliced very thinly
10g (2 tsp) chives, finely chopped
4 x 100g slices of tuna, very fresh
Salt and pepper
50ml olive oil
In a small bowl, whisk the mustard with the vinegars, garlic and a little seasoning. Pour over the oil in a thin, slow drizzle, whisking constantly until the vinaigrette becomes thick. Transfer to a jar or airtight container and keep in the refrigerator.
Place the potatoes in a small pan, cover with cold water and bring to the boil. Simmer until just tender, then drain well. Allow to cool and thinly slice. Meanwhile, cook the french beans in boiling salted water, leaving them firm with a slight crunch. To assemble the salad, arrange the lettuce leaves in a serving dish. Pile on the remaining ingredients, scattering over the chives, and drizzle with the dressing.
When ready to serve, cook the tuna. Season the fish on each side. Heat a frying pan until very hot, add a drizzle of oil and fry the tuna very, very quickly on each side. The outside should be just warm and the middle still rare. Place on top of the salad and serve immediately.