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#ThatTranslatorCanCook: week 2: Niçoise Salad

This week, I wanted to make something with my beautiful homegrown tomatoes, and chose Salade niçoise or Niçoise salad. This light meal is just bursting with the flavours of southern France, and seemed appropriate for the positively balmy weather we’ve been having here in London.

There are several variants to this classic salad, some with potatoes or fresh tuna, as opposed to canned (this one used neither). The recipe I chose also included some optional ingredients.

This is only week two, so perhaps it’s too early to be making generalisations, but English recipes do seem to really spell everything out, in comparison with French recipes. Could this be because the average British cook is expected to have less knowledge of cooking than their French counterpart? Or could it be that the French cook likes to be given more room to do things à sa sauce (in their own way)? Let me know if you have any insight or thoughts on why this might be.


This recipe proved that in order to translate recipes, it really does help to be a decent cook, or at least know the basics, along with a hefty helping of common sense.

For instance, anchovies are listed in the ingredients list, with no indication of how many to use, nor whether they should be chopped up. Similarly, the instructions tell the cook to simply add the hard-boiled eggs to the salad. In British recipes however, the standard is to mention whether these ingredients should be diced, sliced, or quartered – either as part of the method, or in the ingredients list.

In a real-world situation, before the start of such a project, this would be something worth discussing with the client: are they happy with you making what is implicit, explicit, so as to meet the target reader’s expectations? Of course, if the client is the recipe writer themselves, they are likely to have an opinion on how many anchovies should be used, or whether the eggs should be quartered or sliced.

Niçoise olives

I must confess, I wasn’t entirely sure what a niçoise olive was, and I wasn’t able to find them in my local shops – it seems they are mainly eaten within France. So, after a bit of research, I decided to add Kalamata olives as an alternative option.


As a simple salad, there wasn’t actually much cooking involved, but everything went smoothly, and it tasted delicious. While I did have to guess at how many olives and anchovies was the right amount, and what a ‘large can of tuna’ might mean in France, I seemed to be about right - perhaps more anchovies next time. As you can see from my picture, I used lettuce rather than mesclun, as it was what I had in the fridge - in retrospect, mesclun would have added extra flavour, so I wish I had gone for that.

What next?

Next week, I’ll be making use of a particularly French ingredient, and there will be more cooking involved that this time around. Let me know if you have any guesses!

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