Salade Niçoise is a classic dish which originated in the French city of Nice, where it was called la salada nissarda in the Niçard dialect of the Occitan language. While traditionalists will undoubtedly frown upon any additions or adaptations, the salad – which is savoury because of the tuna, anchovies or in this recipe, bokkoms – in fact benefits tremendously from the sweet, fruity freshness that papaya contributes.
The dressing for a Salade Niçoise is classically made with anchovies in oil, which are often added to food to impart a subtle umami flavour. Our own South African bokkom makes for a worthy replacement. In fact the bokkom dressing is what allows the papaya to work in concert with the rest of the Niçoise. Bokkoms are those little whole salted and dried fishes from the West Coast of South Africa. They are made from mullet (particularly Southern mullet, Chelon richardsonii), also known as “harders”. One can find them all over the country and they keep very well, so make an excellent pantry staple.
The Niçoise works very well with any meal where salads are required, but because of the complexity and number of ingredients it is probably best served on its own. It works very well as a side for a main course with a simple piece of grilled fish or a good steak, or as a pretty and filling starter.
Ingredients for 4 to 6 people:
10 g garlic (2 cloves), peeled and sliced
60 ml fresh lemon juice
60 ml red wine vinegar
Zest of ½ lemon
5 ml salt
3 ml freshly ground black pepper
7,5 ml sugar
7,5 ml prepared mustard
15 g bokkoms, cut into smaller pieces
20 ml (1 heaped table spoon) fresh thyme leaves
100 ml extra virgin olive oil
100 ml neutral flavoured oil, such as sunflower
For the salad:
400 g (1 punnet) large Roma cocktail tomatoes, halved (or use the equivalent quantity of ripe salad tomatoes cut into wedges)
280 g (1 packet) fine French green beans, blanched
6 medium red potatoes, boiled in their skin until soft, sliced
6 hardboiled eggs, quartered
1 (or possibly 2 if the salad is served as a main course) tinned tuna in oil (one could also grill a piece of fresh tuna)
½ a medium papaya, sliced into wedges
½ cup black olives without pips
¼ cup chopped parley
Some sliced red onion
A tablespoon of capers
A selection of sturdy lettuce, torn into pieces
Use a stick blender in a tall jar, an upright liquidiser, or make the dressing in a pestle and mortar, by blitzing all the ingredients (except the two oils) together into a smooth, homogenous mass. Slowly add the oil, trying to keep the mix in suspension – but there is no harm if it does not fully emulsify.
The salad can be either served mixed together, or on a platter where all the ingredients are kept separately. However you choose to serve it, guard against over-mixing your ingredients to retain their visual appeal. Dress the salad and serve.