Ensaladilla rusa or Russian Salad is a humble little salad from Spain. Well, to be precise, it originated in Russia as it’s name suggests but their version of the salad was much more opulent (think caviar, crayfish tails and smoked duck…) than one I grew to love.
This salad appeared on the table at most family events as the primer plato, generally followed by some type of meat such as eye fillet or lamb cutlets. It is always eaten cold and served with olive oil, salt and homemade mayonnaise.
In the Spanish version of this recipe, you only need to cook the potato and the carrot. The peas and corn are tinned and the white asparagus and roasted capsicum come from a jar. No wonder it’s a favourite, it’s super easy to prepare.
In my version, I went to the effort of roasting the capsicum and I blanched the corn, peas and green asparagus (the white asparagus was $8 a bunch! That’s about 4 spears..). I think the texture you get from freshly cooking all the vegetables is far better. The salad has nice definition to it instead of being too mushy.
Any tuna will be fine in this salad but I went searching for the preserved tuna that we used to buy in Spain that is not so common here. It has a much nicer flavour and texture. I found a little jar from the Basque country called Yurrita Gastronomika.
As with many of the great Spanish dishes, the ingredients are basic but the result is impressive.
2 large or 3 medium potatoes
1 red pepper
3/4 cup frozen peas
1 corn cob, kernels removed
1 bunch of green asparagus
1 jar of tuna in oil
For the mayonnaise
A good pinch of salt
1/2 clove of garlic
Juice of half a lemon
1/2 tsp of dijon mustard
Approximately 1 cup of sunflower oil
Preheat your oven to 180 degrees celsius. Rub a little olive oil on the red capsicum and place on a tray in the oven. Cook for about an hour or until it is nicely charred on the outside and tender inside. Turn occasionally during cooking. Put the cooked capsicum in a bowl and cover with cling film. This makes it sweat and the skin is easier to remove. When cool, remove the skin. Then open the capsicum and remove the stem and seeds.
Steam the potatoes and carrot in a double boiler until tender all the way through. About 15 minutes for the carrot and 30 minutes for the potatoes depending on their size. Set aside to cool.
Bring a pot of water to the boil and blanch the asparagus until tender, it should take a couple of minutes. Remove and refresh in cold water. Add the corn to the boiling water and 10 seconds later add the peas. Let cook for an additional 30 seconds or so, remove and refresh in cold water.
Place eggs in a saucepan and cover with cold water. Place on the heat and bring to the boil. Once the water starts to boil, place the lid on the saucepan, remove from the heat and allow to cool.
For the mayonnaise, crack an egg into a jug and add half of the lemon juice, garlic, salt and mustard. Blitz quickly with a hand held blender and then add the oil in a steady stream (keep blending) until you achieve the thickness you are after. The more oil you add, the thicker your mayonnaise will become. You may not use the whole cup. Taste and add more lemon juice or salt if necessary.
To serve, I sliced the potatoes, diced the carrots and chopped the red capsicum and asparagus (leaving the spears intact). I added the peas and corn as they are, halved the eggs and then broke the tuna over the top. In the original version, everything is diced and more often than not, the mayonnaise is mixed through.
I think it’s nice to serve the mayonnaise alongside so everyone can put on as much or as little as they like. Don’t forget the bread!
Serves 8 as a starter or good to serve as part of a BBQ feast…