Our youngest son is back from his final term at university and has been trying to kill off his dissertation like the most lackadaisical of executioners. He is vegan, which has necessitated a few culinary tweaks, but nothing to keep anyone awake at night. Happily, (for me if not for him) we've been blessed with lovely weather which means we have been eating outdoors and focusing on salads and spring vegetables.
I have long been partial to a salade Niçoise, which is a recipe that people have been adapting to suit their requirements for generations. Elizabeth David was complaining about that in the 1950s so there is ample precedent. Fortunately, it lends itself well to deconstruction and reconstruction so most dietary needs can be met without too much distraction.
Ingredients: (Serves 4 to 5 adults)
Little Gem lettuce x 2 (washed and dried).
French beans x 200g (trimmed and washed).
Free-range eggs x 4.
Anchovy fillets x 4.
Pitted Black Olives x 120g.
'This Isn't Chicken' x 170g.
Large Red Onion x 1.
Fresh Tomatoes x 300g.
A crushed clove of garlic.
White wine vinegar.
Salt and pepper.
Layer the individual lettuce leaves across a large, flat plate then top with the onion (finely sliced), tomatoes (halved), 'This Isn't Chicken' (pan-fried in olive oil then allowed to cool), lightly-boiled and drained beans and olives. Hard boil, de-shell and halve the eggs lengthways and dress with the anchovies. I kept these aside for obvious reasons.
Put 2 tablespoons of white wine vinegar, 2 tablespoons of olive oil, the garlic and a good twist of salt and pepper in a sealed jar and shake prior to dressing the salad.
Serve in shallow bowls with crusty bread and an aromatic coastal white wine. Our white Cassis from Clos Sainte Magdeleine would be perfect and was a delightful accompaniment.