In Russia, they prepare a wonderful starter called ‘Olivier salad’ (Салат Оливье), which comprises many ingredients, but is usually made up of diced boiled eggs, carrots, potatoes, chicken/ham, olives and dressed with mayonnaise. In Italy, this is obviously known as a ‘Russian salad’ (insalata russa), although it does appear that the original recipe might in fact have been French. Without going into too much controversy here (especially now, when the geopolitical situation in Europe and the ties with Russia are not exactly the friendliest of all times), let me just tell you that a good Oliver salad is a dish from heaven. Although typically served as a starter, I could eat easily this by the tablespoon as a main as well. I remember, when I used to live in Kaliningrad, eating tonnes of it. Good times.
Anyway, reminiscence over, I also wanted to tell you I got a new book while I was in Italy. It’s called Piccola pasticceria salata (Small savoury pastries) by Luca Montersino, a world-renowned pastry chef who is extremely famous in my home country for his innovative take on sweet (and savoury) dishes. The book is a real compendium of flavours and experiments, which I always admire in the kitchen. One of his ideas was to give a new spin to this classical dish by making small bite-sized portions and topping them with a chicken and prawn nugget. Even though I have amended the original recipe to suit my taste and equipment, these are simply divine. A must try.
Ingredients (for the filling)
- 100g carrots (1 small carrot)
- 100g potatoes (1/2 medium potato)
- 60g frozen peas
- 50g tinned tuna (1/2 tin)
- 30g gherkins (approx. 6 small ones)
- 80g mayonnaise
- 1-2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
Ingredients (for the nuggets)
- 150g cooked prawns, deveined and tail removed
- 80g chicken breast
- 80g breadcrumbs
- 30g egg white (more or less the egg white of a large egg)
- salt and pepper
- 250g shortcrust pastry
- 80g mayonnaise, to assemble
- First of all, you need to make your shortcrust cups. I used this 24-hole morsel set, which gives me 2.5cm pastry cups. Broadly speaking, you need to blind bake your cups and let them cool completely before you fill them, so please ensure the base is crispy. Lay each tin hole with a disc of pastry slightly larger than the hole, in order to ensure the pastry covers all the way to the edge of the tin. Line with baking parchment or foil, fill with baking beans, then bake in a 180C oven for about 15 minutes. Remove the foil and beans, then bake for another 7-10 minutes until crispy. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely.
- To make the filling, peel the carrot and potato, then dice them very finely. You are free to adapt the size of the diced vegetable to the size of your cups. With mine being very small, I wanted them to be very finely chopped so as to be sure they would fit inside the pastry cups. Add the chopped carrot and potato to a pan of boiling water, then blanch for about 3-4 minutes, until the vegetables are just starting to cook. Add the peas, cook for a further 2 minutes, then drain and refresh under cold water (or, even better, add to a bowl with iced water to stop the cooking). Drain and set aside.
- Finely dice the gherkins and the tuna as well, then add to a bowl together with the boiled vegetables, the mayonnaise, the Worcestershire sauce and some seasoning. Mix to combine, then set aside.
- To make the nuggets, add all of the ingredients to a food processor and pulse until the mixture holds together and is thoroughly minced. Shape the mixture into small balls/nuggets (mine were more or less the size of a hazelnut), then fry in very hot oil until golden brown and cooked through. Drain on kitchen paper, then get ready to assemble.
- To assemble the tartlets, fill the cups with the Olivier salad until the top. Do not overfill them or you won’t be able to position the nugget on top. In a bowl, mix the reserved mayonnaise with a dash of Worcestershire sauce, then transfer to a piping bag fitted with a star nozzle. Pipe a small ring of mayonnaise on the top of each tartlet, then position a nugget on top. Best served at room temperature.