Russian Salad is a funny thing. It looks like really bad potato salad but everything is chopped into the tiniest dice. Why is it called Russian Salad? I think it's really Salad Olivier if you're in Russia.
Basia Zagala, who is Polish, makes the greatest version. I started thinking how much I missed hers the other day. At parties where her salad is served people can’t stop eating it… it’s good enough that I would go to a bad party if I knew this was being served. Really – the texture of the tiny little bits, and the way the flavours combine are fucking genius. There’s potato sure, but it ain’t no potato salad, it’s some kind of magic that comes when you put crunch and tender, sweetness and pickle all together.
Once when my sister Marion really wanted the recipe for this salad her birthday party she called Basia to ask for it. In under an hour Basia and Voitek were at the door with their knives and a bottle of wine . They insisted on making it for her. If only there was such a good dial-a-salad service available to us all.
Anyway, I had a go at making it myself yesterday using Basia's recipe. It wasn't as good - I got bad pickles! And the mayo wasn't the best. But still, it was pretty tasty and it was kinda fun to spend an hour chopping things really tiny, not painful like I thought it would be. It helped that there was a house full of hysterical ladies to entertain me and the glorious ridiculousness of the L word to relax in front of afterwards.
Here’s what Marion says about Basia's method: “You need 6 waxy potatoes that are good for salad and won’t crumble, ask the people at the greengrocer. If they are really big cut them in half. You need 3 – 4 quite large carrots as well. Put both in a big pot of cold water and boil until cooked. While boiling get good ogorki (pickles) – maybe 2 tins of Israeli ones and chop up very small in cubes – 6mm square. When the potatoes and carrots are cooked rub off the skin on the potatoes and peel the carrots and cut them tiny too.
Add 2 tins petis pois which are funny little baby peas you get at the supermarket. You need the imported type. Also 3 or 4 apples, very hard and crunchy ones cut up as tiny as the rest. Throw it all in together and dress. Use a huge jar of really good mayonnaise like S & W with some lemon juice and a little bit of white vinegar, salt and pepper. Basia adds minced dill as well, but this is controversial. In any case, stir it really well through, taste it and refrigerate for a day.”
You won’t be disappointed.