Tofu Nicoise Salad
Swap tuna for tofu to make a classic niçoise salad vegetarian friendly. Get the recipe below.
What makes a niçoise anyway?
It turns out the niçoise we all know and love might not be as traditional or authentic as we think and it turns out there are arguments about what should and shouldn’t appear in a “proper” niçoise salad. I fear I’ve completely torn up the rule book with this recipe but you know what. Some rules are made to be broken. If you’re eating a traditional niçoise salad then you can expect tomatoes, olive, an egg, anchovies and tuna. I’ve always associated niçoise with green beans and potatoes too but it turns out there are additional extras, as are other vegetables like cucumber and pepper! I’ve used a couple of these unorthodox ingredients in this recipe and it is well worth it.
However you make it, a niçoise salad is a celebration of summer. Crisp, fresh veggies are tossed with a little olive oil, lemon, salt and pepper. The potatoes work as a good filler if you want to serve it up as a main course all by itself. Of course to make this dish vegetarian we’re going to have to ditch the anchovies and the tuna. The issue of the anchovies can be solved by being a little over zealous with the salt seasoning. The tuna is a little more tricky.
Tofu versus Tuna
I used to eat a lot of fish – and I mean A LOT. Niçoise salad was regularly on the menu in my work cafeteria and I would eat it for lunch every day if I could. If I wasn’t eating a niçoise salad then there was a strong possibility I was tucking into sushi! Since going vegetarian I’ve been looking to transform some of my favourite fish dishes into plant based meals and it’s not always been easy. There are some fantastic mock fish products on the market now. Quorn’s fishless fingers and Linda McCartney’s prawns get a shout out for being super realistic! We also recently went to a vegan fish and chip shop in Hackney which made battered fish fillets out of banana blossom. The texture was fantastic!
But, for something like a salad you have to accept that there are currently no plant based substitutes that mimick flaky tuna steak or salmon fillets for example. Instead, for this recipe I decided to swap the tuna for tofu. Yes they have different textures and flavours but both are a protein source that work well with a simple dressing and the crisp flavours of the chopped veggies. For extra flavour you can opt for a pre-marinated variety of tofu. I love Tofu Rosso by Taifun for dishes like this. It’s packed full of flavour which works well with the sweet summer tomatoes. Smoked tofu also works well, as does plain. If using a plain, firm tofu then I’d recommend using a flavoured oil (perhaps walnut, sesame or garlic oil).
Tofu Nicoise Salad
- Cut the tofu into cubes and shallow fry, turning every 5 minutes until crispy (20 minutes in total) then tip out on to kitchen roll while you assemble the rest of the salad.
- In the meantime, place the potatoes in a pan of boiling water and cook for 15 minutes or until tender. Once cooked, run under cold water to cool.
- After the potatoes have been cooking for 5 minutes, place the green beans in a steamer over the pan and let them cook until tender. Once cooked, run under cold water to cool.
- After the green beans have been cooking for 5 minutes, place the egg into a pan of boiling water. Cook for 4-5 minutes before remove from the pan and running under cold water until cool.
- To assemble the salad, cut the new potatoes into bite size pieces.
- Place the tofu into a bowl along with the new potatoes, green beans, tomatoes and olives.
- In a small bowl whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper.
- Drizzle the olive oil and lemon dressing over the salad and toss lightly before turning out on to your plate.
- Peel your egg, cut it in half and top the salad immediately before serving.
Make it vegan!
If you wanted to go all the way and make this recipe vegan, all you’d need to do is leave out the egg. There’s no real substitute for a soft boiled egg so you just have to miss out this time. As soon as I’ve found a good, plant-based replacement I will let you know!
More summer salads
If you like this, you’ll love these other summer salads.