Monday, 14 May 2012

Mary Berry's Salade Nicoise

One of our senior managers' favourite phrases is 'Every day is a school day'.  And today, I've learned why hardboiled eggs sometimes stick to their shells when you try to peel them.  I only learned this after nearly ripping my poor little boiled egg to shreds as I was trying to assemble my salad.  It didn't make for a very photogenic picture (I will never be a good food stylist anyway!), but it was tasty, nevertheless.

I noted down to make a Nicoise a few weeks ago when rummaging through my Leith's book for ideas.  Given the sunny weather over the weekend, it seemed an appropriate choice for tea tonight.  And thankfully the awful grey, wet morning gave way to a lovely sunny evening which meant eating salad didn't seem like so much of a bad choice.

There are so many variations on a Nicoise, that I plumped for Mary's version just because the book was close to hand at tea time.  All classic recipes have their variations.  I found some use potatoes (I didn't go with this as I'm trying to watch my calorie intake), others used sun-dried tomatoes (in all honesty I would've preferred this as I don't like fresh tomatoes, but again it was all about the calories).  There are also many different opinions on the dressing.

It may not be beautiful but it tasted good!
What I knew from somewhere deep in the depths of my brain, however was that is based around tuna, has  french beans and black olives and then other random salad vegetables thrown in.  Even the tuna is a contentious issue.  From the five recipes I looked at, four used tinned and one used fresh.  I would've preferred fresh, but because I keep buying tuna when I see it on special in the supermarket and putting it in different places in the store cupboard, a recent stocktake revealed seven tins so it seemed madness to waste more money buying fresh.

Some recipes used Cos lettuce, one used Iceberg, one used spinach.  I plumped for Little Gem as they were on offer in the supermarket.  Because I was after traditional here, I braved both fresh tomatoes and anchovies.  Mary adds cucumber to hers.  I went with this purely because I love cucumber and it's really low in fat (although I'm not sure it's traditional).  She uses a mild white onion.  I had half a red one left over so in that went, rather than wasting another onion.

And then the egg.  I don't like hardboiled eggs when the yolk is set.  Never have.  I love the white bit, but I hate the powdery texture of a fully set egg yolk.  Especially if it's got that nasty grey ring around the outside.  So for me, it was important to have my egg with the white just set enough but the yolk still runny enough to dip soldiers in.

I already knew to add salt to the water to make sure that the egg doesn't burst.  And you can stop the nasty grey ring by running the cooked eggs under cold water (not environmentally friendly!).  I also tend to cook my eggs from cold - I've figured out that 15 minutes over a medium heat works best (or about 9 minutes if you put them in boiling water).  Being environmentally friendly on the washing up front, I also through my beans into the same pan at the 10 minute mark.

Unfortunately, however, trying to peel my really fragile boiled egg (remember the middle isn't set so it's really delicate), I was disappointed to find the shell was ripping off bits of white with it.   I persevered and made it look just about respectable enough for the picture.  The minute tea was over (and I'd recovered from having to eat both tomatoes and anchovies in one sitting) I was Googling a solution to the problem.

And it turns out that my eggs were too fresh.  Apparently they need to be a few days old.  The trouble with that is, how can you tell with shop-bought eggs?  Yes, they have an expiry date.  And yes, horror of horrors, before I started this blog and got through a mountain of eggs each week, I would often use eggs that were a week or two out of date (and I'm still here to tell the tale!).  But how can you work out how long has elapsed between it being laid and ending up in my shopping trolley?

So next time I want really good hard boiled eggs (a rare occurrence anyway), I will make sure I use some that are near their expiry date rather than ones I've just bought.  Or just peel really carefully and know that I'll have ugly looking (but great-tasting) eggs.

As for the recipe, I deviated a bit from Mary's instructions.  And so I'd suggest just doing a bit of research and picking a recipe that works for you.  I really liked the meal, even with the fresh tomatoes but I think I'd try with the sun-dried ones next time for the intense taste.  And potatoes on the side because I'm still hungry.  Blooming diet!

1 comment:

  1. I partly knew that about the eggs but not quite. I knew that fresh eggs are for Poaching but as soon as they are a few days old they are for hard-boiling and they don't work the other way round.


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