When I was a kid, we used to spend a fair bit of time at my Nan and Granddad’s house in East London. Quite often, if a lot of family were around, there would be some kind of buffet dinner going on. Often a component of this would be a classic English lettuce salad. The assembled adults all seemed to love it. I on the other hand thought it was disgusting. Whiffy hard-boiled eggs, the yolks lined with an unappetising grey ring; eye watering peppery radishes, rasping raw spring onion and just salad in general. Utterly minging. I just didn’t get it. I’d rather have eaten chips and baked beans.
Fast-forward 30 years. A bit older, a bit less finicky and a just a tad less imbecilic, flicking through ‘Second Helpings of Roast Chicken’ by Simon Hopkinson, a recipe for the exact same horror salad of my youth leapt from the page. Instead of retching and scurrying to the kitchen to find comfort in chips and a tin of beans, I was intrigued. It’s a British classic.
The upshot of all this waffling is, I made the salad and as well as being bloody delicious, it confirmed a few truths. First, once again, Simon Hopkinson is a God. Secondly, my Grandparents knew how to put together a salad; I was just too unsophisticated in my tastes to appreciate it. Soz. Finally, homemade salad-cream is absolutely banging, seriously good.
I’ve copied Simon Hopkinson’s recipe out verbatim below, but have a few points of my own to make.
The unappetising grey rings around a yolk are the result of not cooling down your hard-boiled ouefs in cold water. Do that and they won't materialise.
Six hearts of lettuce seems a bit much, I used three and that was plenty for four portions.
The mint really adds something, so I'd say stick a fair bit in, more than a 'few leaves' anyway.
Tarragon vinegar, you’ve either got it stocked locally or you haven’t. If not, stick some tarragon in a bottle of white wine vinegar, et voila, job-jobbed. Even if it’s only a couple of hours before you want to use it, that’ll work.
The salad cream I made, maddeningly split, I was whisking by hand, I couldn’t be arsed to get the blender out, resulting in me breaking out an impromptu, Basil Fawlty ranting impression. If you’ve got a blender, I suggest you employ that. If it does split, add a little sunflower/vegetable oil, a trickle at a time and blitz it, then add a bit more, blitz , repeat, etc. It should eventually re-emulsify and come together again. Sighs, relieved grins and hearty backslaps all round then.
Lastly, I love how Hoppy advises to use your good taste when arranging the salad on a plate. If you’re unfortunate enough to have none, then don’t panic, the finished article may indeed look like a frigging (strangely vegetarian) dog’s dinner, but it’ll still taste amazing anyway.
For the salad:
12 radishes, washed, halved and put into ice-cold water for 30mins, to crisp up