Last weekend was D-day for our kitchen. Ever since we moved in I’d been itching to get rid of the miserable oak units and battered and tired old appliances. But almost as soon as we started taking the old units down, it became obvious that whoever had originally fitted them must have been the only non-cowboy in town! With almost tear-inducing levels of fastidiousness, they’d carefully concealed every screw in the most inaccessible of places. Where one screw would suffice, they had used two. And just to be on the safe side, they’d slathered on some glue too.
Whoever it was, I salute them. But after several tedious hours of chipping away at their meticulous handiwork, eventually we triumphed. By the end of the weekend, we’d managed to get the whole sorry lot out of the door and into the van of a poor soul who’d bought it off us on Ebay (for the princely sum of £10), leaving us a beautiful blank slate for the installation of our new kitchen.
And it was about 10 seconds into admiring our beautifully blank slate that reality began to set in. Namely: K was about to head off to the States for 10 days for work, and our new kitchen had only been half delivered.
Which is why, as I write this, my kitchen consists of a solitary cooker and some half assembled units – but crucially, no worktops, and no sink – or running water of any kind. I’d post a picture but it’s far too depressing to record for posterity!
With the utensils in the lounge, the sink in the upstairs bathroom and the cooker in the kitchen, I knew there wouldn’t be much cooking to be done this week. But I did want something in the fridge that would be easy to dive into, didn’t need reheating and didn’t totally ruin the nice little low-carb diet I’ve been working on since the New Year.
And that’s how the cauliflower Olivieh Salad was born. For the uninitiated, Olivieh Salad is traditionally a potato-based salad, beloved of the Russians and Iranians who fight over exactly how it should be made, but who generally agree that it involves eggs, vegetables and gherkins in a tangy mayonnaise based sauce. It’s so decadent and uniquely flavoured that when you mention it to most Iranians their eyes roll back into their heads and they start salivating.
But then they get a guilty, slightly furtive look in their eyes. Because they’ve seen how many potatoes, how much mayonnaise is involved in the making of a perfect Olivieh Salad. And they know, in their heart of hearts, that this is truly not a healthy treat.
So in this week’s Olivieh Salad I swapped the potatoes for cauliflower, and most of the mayonnaise for greek yoghurt. I feared a pale imitation of what should be a hearty, decadent salad. But what I got was something to get excited about. Subtly different, but still proudly, overwhelmingly Olivieh. And better still, with this Olivieh Salad, there’s no reason not to go back for more. Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you, the guilt-free Olivieh Salad…
- 1 chicken breast (ideally on the bone)
- ½ large cauliflower
- 90g peas (fresh or frozen)
- 2 carrots
- 5 gherkins (dill pickle is ideal)
- 3 eggs
- 120g 0% fat Greek yoghurt
- 50g mayonnaise
- Juice of 1 lemon
- Preheat the oven to 180C. Pop the chicken breast onto a baking tray, season lightly and roast in the oven for 30 or 40 minutes or until cooked through. Once cooked, set aside to cool.
- While the chicken breast is cooking, bring a large pan of salted water to the boil. Chop the cauliflower roughly into thumb-sized pieces, and finely dice the carrot, then place both into the boiling water. Cook for about 15 minutes – until al dente but still firm, then throw in the frozen or fresh peas and cook for a further 2-3 minutes.
- Drain the vegetables and place in a large serving bowl.
- Bring a small pan of water to the boil, then add the eggs. Cook for 7 minutes, then remove them from the pan and run under cold water.
- Dice the gherkins and boiled eggs finely and add to the large serving bowl.
- Once the chicken breast has cooled, use two forks to shred it into small pieces and add to the large serving bowl along with the rest of the ingredients.
- In a separate bowl, mix the yoghurt, mayonnaise and lemon juice together, then pour this mixture over the ingredients in the serving bowl and stir everything together well.
- Check seasoning and add salt and pepper to taste. If you can wait, cover the dish and place it in the fridge for a few hours before serving, to let all of the flavours come together.