Recently I felt nostalgic for tinned Russian Salad. I can’t remember which company supplied them might have been Heinz or possibly Crosse and Blackwell. What I recall was something like a macedoine of vegetables but with a salad cream/ mayonnaise type of sauce. It was usually found in the half size tins.
The rumour is that Heinz Vegetable Salad (once Russian Salad) is discontinued. I cannot find it on the official Heinz website.
Unable to find the product on supermarket shelves I thought I would try and recreate the product. I did not want to create an up-market salad but get the feeling of the then popular product sold in the 50’s and 60’s possibly 70’s too. My first attempt, very easy, was a little disappointing. I bought a tin of diced vegetables from Tesco’s added Hellmann’s mayonnaise and a little Heinz salad cream for tartness. This was further embellished with chopped cornichons(Mrs Ell swood’s) and chopped capers. True it did largely resemble the original product that I remember except that there was little or no crunch. I did quite like it though but knew there could be improvements. The problem I think was that the Tesco’s vegetables were too mushy.
Undeterred I had another bash. This time I happened to find in Waitrose their own brand of diced vegetables. I also found their canned boiled potatoes. Good I tried these along the same lines as above and found greater success. The crunch was there. Waitrose diced vegetables are more al dente than Tesco’s. I still added the cornichons and capers but this time I slightly upped the potato content with some of the canned potatoes. This time Tesco’s mayonnaise was used, along with a dollop of Heinz salad cream. I rated this a success.
The not so good photo above shows my version garnished with halved quails eggs and slices of cornichons.
What I have described above is nothing like the original Russian Salad or Salad Olivier which was apparently created a by a M. Lucien Olivier in the 1860’s, a Belgian chef working in Moscow’s l’Hermitage restaurant, one of the city’s up scale eateries. His had chicken and or game, sometimes shellfish and other costly ingredients.
My easy version is very palatable and adaptable. Add fresh diced shallots if you want. This works. I haven’t tried chopped green olives yet but I am sure they would work. To make it a bit more high end you could serve it with pickled quails eggs ( I used Opie’s), king prawns perhaps, not necessarily mixed in but on the side. Look at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Olivier_salad for the history.
The reason I chose to go down the canned route is firstly because I am single and only need small quantities and secondly I like the idea of knocking something tasty and adaptable up from my store cupboard. If you are going to cater for a party I would probably recommend doing it the hard way and cooking and dicing your vegetables. Make sure that you have these ingredients: potatoes (preferably waxy) one quarter, carrots one quarter, peas one quarter with the last quarter being a mix of the more piquant ingredients. The piquant ingredients can be gherkins or cornichons, capers or caperberries chopped, finely chopped raw onion, shallot or spring onion. The latter can add extra green if some of the tops are used. I prefer shallot. The daring could try chopped pickled silverskin onions. Proteins can be added but I think I prefer them alongside or on top, not mixed in. The protein can be tuna, hard boiled egg, anchovies, ham chopped or sliced. Basically anything you fancy.
The salad is great accompanying cold meats left over from the Sunday roast or if you are like me just for snacking.