Couronne Niçoise

Choux pastry gets a savoury twist in Sophie Grigson's adaptation of a French-style niçoise salad
By Sophie Grigson
Couronne Niçoise
  • Rating:
  • Serves: 6
  • Cook Time: plus cooling
  • Prep Time: 30 minutes
  • Effort: medium

Ingredients

For the choux pastry

  • 225 ml water
  • 125 g unsalted butter, diced
  • 150 g plain flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 4 eggs
  • 60 g freshly grated gruyère cheese
  • 1 tsp kalonji or black onion seeds, or poppy seeds

For the filling

  • 185 g tinned tuna, drained and flaked
  • 3 tbsp mayonnaise
  • 1 tbsp capers, chopped
  • 3 tinned anchovy fillets, chopped
  • 2 hard-boiled eggs, chopped
  • 4 spring onions, thinly sliced

For the salad

  • 2 handfuls frisée lettuce, torn into small pieces, or other mixed lettuce leaves
  • 100 g cooked green beans
  • 120 g sliced cherry tomatoes
  • 8 black olives, stoned and roughly chopped
  • 3 tbsp vinaigrette
  • 1 grilled and skinned red pepper, seeds removed, cut into strips
  • salt and black pepper

Method

1. For the choux pastry ring, pre-heat the oven to 230C/gas 8 and line a large baking tray with non-stick baking parchment. Using a dinner plate or saucepan lid as a template, mark out a circle, 28-30cm in diameter. Turn the paper over so that the outline is still visible, but you are not actually getting any of the ink or graphite markings onto your food.

2. Heat the water and butter until the butter has melted - don't let the water boil before the butter has melted. Turn up the heat and bring the water and butter to a fast boil. Tip the flour and salt into the pan in one go.

3. Turn the heat down low and beat the flour into the butter and water mixture until the paste becomes a loose ball. Remove the pan from the heat.

4. Break in the first egg and beat vigorously into the paste. Beat in the second egg, followed by the third. Break the last egg into a bowl and whisk lightly to break it up. Gradually beat in this egg until the paste has a fairly stiff consistency and takes on a glossy sheen.

5. Fit a piping bag with a 1cm nozzle. Fill the bag with the choux paste and pipe a circle of warm dough over the baking parchment guideline. Now pipe a second circle just inside the first (both rings should touch each other). Finish with a third circle, which should sit on top of the first two rings.

6. Sprinkle the choux pastry with cheese and poppy seeds and bake for 15 minutes, until well puffed. Reduce the heat to 200C/gas 6, and bake for a further 10 minutes.

7. Using a skewer, pierce 3-4 holes in the sides of the choux ring - this helps release the steam and prevents the pastry from going soggy. Return the ring to the oven, reduce the heat to 180C/gas 4 and bake for a further 10 minutes. Turn off the oven, open the oven door, and leave the ring to completely cool down. While the choux ring is drying out, make the filling.

8. For the filling, mix the tuna with the mayonnaise, and stir in the capers, anchovies, hard-boiled eggs and spring onions. Season to taste (it may need no more than a good measure of pepper).

9. Place the baked choux ring on a serving plate. Heap a handful of frisse in the centre of the pastry ring, and cover the leaves with green beans, tomato slices and olives. Drizzle the vinaigrette over the salad.

10. Top with spoonfuls of the tuna and mayonnaise mixture, and finish with strips of grilled pepper. Serve straight away, before the pastry goes soggy.

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