I don’t want to put a jinx on it, but it’s starting to look like Spring has finally arrived – the sun is out, and it’s decidedly warmer. So, my thoughts turn to salad and rustling up variations on a crunchy bowl of leaves with a piquant French dressing. Here are recipes for 2 of my favourite salads: Salade Niçoise and Warm Goat’s Cheese with Spinach and Bacon.
Salade Niçoise – serves 4
This is a posh version using fresh tuna, but you can substitute tinned tuna if you like. It’s quicker as you don’t need to marinade the tuna.
450g/1lb fresh tuna or 4 x 175g/6oz tuna steaks, 2.5cm/1in thick
8 new potatoes, cooked and quartered lengthways
4 plum tomatoes, roughly chopped
115g/4oz extra fine French beans, topped, cooked and drained
4 little gem lettuce hearts, quartered lengthways
1 red onion, finely sliced
4 hard boiled eggs, halved
6 anchovy fillets cut lengthways into thin strips
16 pitted black olives in brine
8 basil leaves, ripped
For the dressing or marinade
105ml/7tbsp extra virgin olive oil
3 tbsp aged red wine vinegar
2 tbsp freshly chopped parsley
2 tbsp freshly snipped chives
2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground black pepper
To make the dressing or marinade whisk together the red wine vinegar, olive oil, parsley, chives, garlic, salt and pepper.
Place the tuna in a shallow dish and pour over half of the dressing. Cover and chill for 1-2 hours to allow the fish to marinate. Toss in the marinade from time to time.
Heat a ridged griddle pan on the hob or a hot barbecue for 5 minutes. Remove the tuna from the marinade. Cook the tuna steaks for 2-3 minutes on each side, depending on how rare you like your fish.
Lay the lettuce leaves onto a large plate and add the lettuce, onion, tomatoes, potato, tuna, beans and anchovies. Drizzle over the remaining dressing then finish by adding the eggs, olives and ripped basil leaves.
Warm Goat’s Cheese Salad – Serves 2
Bag of baby spinach leaves or mixed leaves
100g log goat’s cheese cut into 4 slices
Small baguette cut 8 rounds about 1cm deep ( or cut larger slices of sour dough into quarters)
4 bacon rashers – chopped
French dressing – ingredients as above but omit parsley and chives and substitute balsamic vinegar for the wine vinegar. Whisk in half a teaspoon of Dijon mustard.
Place baby spinach leaves in a salad bowl. Toast croutons and then divide the goat’s cheese between the croutons and grill briefly. Meanwhile, fry the bacon in 1 tbsp oil until brown and crisp. Spoon the bacon and dressing over the leaves and add croutons.
And take a look at our range of pretty hand painted pottery salad bowls from Festin Coquin. Priced at £24.50 they’re guaranteed to bring the colours of Provence onto the table. Click here to see our full range of French tableware.