Wednesday, 25 April 2012

My Mother-in-Law's Russian Salad 'Olivier'

Please welcome my mother-in-law to Potless!

Each year, Mrs Ribeye and I take a trip together to Syktyvkar in northern Russia to visit with the eastern wing of the family. We absolutely love it and I especially do, because it gives me a week-off from cooking and a chance to sample and learn to make for myself some authentic Russki cuisine from someone who has been cooking it for the best part of 50 years. I can't learn it from my wife - she hasn't cooked a dish in her entire 26 years. Bless.

Today's dish was invented 150 years ago by Lucien Olivier in the Hermitage restaurant in Moscow, and traditionally contained all sorts of decadent ingredients: Veal, caviar, duck, crayfish etc. These days, the salad is a mayonnaise-y delight featuring everyday stuff (the more humdrum the ingredients, the better and more authentic the dish - tinned peas are preferable to fresh etc), but is still utterly delicious and reminds me of family. I love it.

Anyway, Mrs Ribeye also takes an annual Easter trip home, without me, to get some quality time with her parents without having to be chief translator, and on this year's trip, her mum made her her favourite Olivier salad - and the missus had to take a picture of it to make me all jealous.

We're both going to visit at the end of the year for Russian New Year (on 7th January - don't ask) and we'll sit down for something to eat at whatever time of day or night we arrive. It's always dinner time at the in-laws place - I am hoping for some Olivier salad, my favourite Seledka pod Shuboy, and some various Pirogi (recipe to follow soon).

Excuse the quality of the photo - it has been taken with an iPhone in Russia, emailed to my Blackberry in London and passed through a filter to make it the right size and give it the right border. That's a lot of technology! Oh, but check out the crockery and tablecloth patterns - how pretty and adorable are they?

Due to the recent Russian clamour for western capitalistic values, food in England is now a lot cheaper to buy than in Russia. £1.50 per serving is all it'll cost you in London. Twice that in Syktyvkar.

Serves 4


2 large potatoes, peeled and cut into 1cm dice
1 large carrot, peeled and cut into 1cm dice
200g cooked ham, cut into 1cm dice
1 small tin of peas, drained
2 hardboiled eggs, cut into 1cm dice
2 spring (salad) onions, chopped
100g mayonnaise
Pinches of salt and pepper

Crusty bread, to serve.

Combine the salad ingredients and chill for an hour or two to allow the flavours to intermingle and develop. Serve with the crusty bread.


  1. A healthy meal for a health-conscious person, I suppose. The Russian salad "Olivier" combines the most light-tasting vegetables with a hint of spring onion, making it a guilt-free dish. I think it can go well without the cooked ham, as salt is enough to bring out the flavors of the vegetables.

    1. Hey Hamish, thanks for the comment. I take your point about omitting the ham - I'll recommend it to my mother-in-law.



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