*this dish is for people with no dietary requirements, but it can easily be amended to suit vegetarians or vegans
There is no Christmas in our family without a Christmas tree (decorated on Christmas Eve), salata de boeuf (Boeuf salad = beef salad), sarmale (stuffed cabbage rolls) and cozonac (a bread like, dough based desert, usually filled with cocoa, walnuts and Turkish delight).
The Romanian Christmas meal is not to be taken lightly. Unlike in other countries, a Romanian festive meal is a whole day event, starting around brunch time with different dishes and Christmas delicacies that will fill your entire day (and your belly!!!), with family time, presents and lots of joy.
Boeuf salad is very loved by Romanians; I will not write about its history (Russian origins), about the components that go into its preparation (from crayfish tails to beef, poultry or even venison) nor about the way of presentation (with or without pompous decorations made from pickles, and tons of mayo, etc.), I will describe the process of preparing the “boeuf” salad my way, replacing beef with chicken breast. This salad is so versatile, it can be made with meat, vegetarian or vegan.
All quantities mentioned below are informative, I tend to use equal amounts of everything, apart from mayo…that should be “just enough” to mix all together.
- 1 free range chicken breast (skip this for vegetarian/vegan option)
- 3 medium potatoes
- 3 medium carrots
- 1 parsnip
- 3 hardboiled eggs
- A few gherkins
- Some roasted peppers – this is more to your taste
- Salt and pepper
- 500 – 600 g mayo (use a vegan one for the vegan option). I make my own mayo using 3 yolks, 3 teaspoons with mustard, ½ teaspoon of salt, 3 teaspoons lemon juice, up to 3 teaspoons sparkling water, and 200- 250 ml sunflower oil (details below)
Skip the first step for vegetarian/vegan option
- Put the meat in a large pot, cover it with cold water, bring the meat to a boil and collect the foam that forms on the surface then boil it for 30 minutes. The foam is removed for purely aesthetic reasons – I want a clear soup to be able to use it after for a noodles soup.
- Meanwhile clean the carrots and parsnip, leave them whole. For the vegetarian/vegan option, put them into a pot and bring them to boil. Add a teaspoon of salt. For the “meaty” option, put the veggies in the pot with the meat. Boil them until they are soft but still have a bite to it; this depends on how big are our veggies – check them with a fork every now and then.
- In a different pot, boil the potatoes in the peel. They need to cool down before you peel them and use. You can use the same pot to boil the eggs
- Once meat and veggies are boiled, remove them from the pot and place them to drain in a colander or improvise as I did! Let them cool and get rid of the excess liquid (which is recovered and returned to the soup pot)
Add some noodles to the soup and you will have one of the best noodle soup ever. Sprinkle some finely chopped fresh parsley and some pepper before serving hot and that’s lunch sorted!
- Wait for the meet and veggies to cool down.
- Chop the meat, veggies, eggs, pickles, roasted peppers – I usually cut them in cubes with a side of 0.5 cm. We now have a big bowl full of little stuff
- Now it’s time to make your mayonnaise. If you already have it, skip this step, go to 8.
Put your raw egg yolks, mustard and salt in a large bowl. Mix them with hand mixer. When they are mixed, start adding the oil. Halfway through add the lemon juice. Mix for a few seconds and continue to add the rest of the oil. If it’s too thick, not creamy, you can add a teaspoon of sparkling water. You can add up to 3 teaspoons but add small quantities – we don’t want to transform it in a soup, we already have one! Once you’ve incorporated the oil, your mayo it’s ready (less than 5 minutes if you don’t stop to take pictures during the process)
- Add the mayo over the chopped veggies and other stuff (making sure you keep some for decorating later!) and mix well with a wooden/silicon spoon, taking care not to crush the delicate cubes but to be sure that the mayonnaise is evenly distributed. At this point I taste it and most of the time I will add some salt and pepper (this is because vegetables and especially potatoes will absorb salt).
- Cover your bowl and leave it in the fridge for a few hours, so that the mayonnaise, meat and vegetables “befriend”. If you have time, you can leave it overnight.
- Decorating – put the desired amount in a dish – you can have a big one or smaller individual portions; you can put it in a shallow dish or give it a nice shape on a plate/plater – like a birthday cake. I can’t be bothered to spend much time decorating it as I know that it will disappear as soon as we start eating so I’m using a glass oven dish.
I’ve choose to make a “snowman” using some hard boiled eggs.
This is the time when you can let your artistic side come out of the shell. If you google “Romanian Boeuf salad decor” you will find so many images to inspire from: flowers, Christmas trees, or landscapes made from pickles or olives – just to name a few!
A big lover of boeuf salad can eat it directly from the dish, in what quantities they want. It’s not a very healthy dish but in moderate amounts we overlook it…
THE BOEUF SALAD MUST BE TASTY!
I hope you will try this “not so classic” recipe of boeuf salad – all those who had it told me that it’s delicious!
Anda Griveteanu, VS Head of Finance and Administration