La Belle Salade Niçoise with a Green Olive Tapenade Dressing

Named ‘La Belle’ after the frequently used nickname for the city of Nice which lies in the French Riviera on the Mediterranean Sea, this salad typifies for me the fresh seasonal beauty of the local cuisine. This simple plate of summer is inspired by Richard Olney’s musings on Lulu Peyraud who, with her husband Lucien, owned Domaine Tempier, a vineyard nestled in the hillside of Provence. Lifelong friends, he describes them thus, “impassioned, exuberant, indefatigable, dedicated to the the belief that the meaning of life lies in love and friendship and that these qualities are best expressed at table.” Although traditional in nature, Lulu’s food was intuitive and observant. Never complicated, it celebrated all that was good about seasonal ingredients treated with respect and love – “you know” she once said to him “my food is nothing but plain old cuisine de bonne femme. What makes it different from recipes in cookbooks and from restaurant cuisine is that I am always cooking for someone I love“. The same is true for me. I created this for my husband last Sunday to serve alongside sumptuous baked feta which I had marinated in a voluptuous Provençal olive olive infused with wild oregano, fennel seeds and sea salt flakes. There was a basket of freshly baked crusty bread on the side and a bottle of chilled Côtes de Provence Rosé, Domaine de l’Amour. Now there’s love for you. In 2017 the family gathered together to celebrate Lulu Peyraud’s 100th birthday. A celebratory label was designed for all wines created that year featuring the swing in her garden which she uses every day and attributes to her long life

Serves 4

Ingredients
500g Jersey royals, cut lengthways into quarters
4 medium free-range eggs
150g of fine green beans, trimmed
3 ripe plum tomatoes, halved
4-6 tbsp extra virgin-olive oil
Sea salt flakes
Wild oregano
A few green leaves
A handful of pitted Kalamata olives
Basil leaves, for garnishing

For the dressing:
1 cup pitted green olives
2 tbsp capers, rinsed and chopped
2 cloves of garlic, crushed and finely chopped
1 lemon, zested and juiced
4-6 tbsp extra virgin-olive oil
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Freshly ground mixed peppercorns

How I make it

First make the dressing by combining the olives, capers and garlic in a mini food processor. Slowly add the olive oil until you achieve your preferred consistency, stir in the lemon zest (reserving the juice for later). Set aside.

Place the potatoes into a large pan, cover with water and salt generously. Bring to the boil and then turn down the heat. Simmer for 10 minutes. Drain and set aside to cool.

Meanwhile, bring a large pan of water to the boil. Lower the eggs in with a large spoon and leave cook for 5-7 minutes, depending upon how soft you would like the yolks to be. Remove the eggs with a slotted spoon (leaving the pan on the heat) and run them under cold running water to stop the cooking process. Set aside.

Add salt to the pan of boiling water and drop in the green beans. Blanch for four minutes. Drain and set aside to cool.

Half an hour before you’re ready to eat, heat an oven to 180C.

Add the potatoes to one half of a large roasting tin and the tomatoes on the other half. Add a glug of olive oil and season generously. Sprinkle the tomatoes with the wild oregano. Place in the oven and roast for 30 minutes.

Place the leaves on the base of a pretty platter, cut the eggs into quarters and arrange everything on top of them. Spoon over the dressing and the lemon juice. Serve with lots of crusty bread. This is also lovely topped with lemon-baked ricotta.

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