I’m supposed to be writing, or at least starting to write an essay about the socio-philosophical foundation of refugee aid, but it can wait.
Most Iranians have fond childhood momeries of the ubiquitious “Olivier” potato salad, as it is a mainstay of Iranian birthday parties, picnics, and general family gatherings- any ocassion where children figure prominently. And no less nostalgic is making it. It is not authentically `Persian`- I imagine, from the name, it is imported from France, but it has been around since well before the revolution.
This weekend, as I diced the boiled potatoes, shredded cooked chicken and cubed cucumber pickles I found myself vividly recalling long long lazy Thursday afternoons (when the weekend starts in Iran) sitting close to my aunt and mother, helping them to make a huge amount of olivier salad to feed hordes of yelling hungry boys- all of whom are grown up now, one is expecting his second child, and another one has been dead for close to ten years. I can remember the quick gentle tones of my aunt and not-so-gentle one of my mother, poking fun at each other, criticizing their brothers, complaining about their mother, and ripping their in-laws into shreds, much like the pieces of chicken being torn into bits by their busy fingers.
I took some olivier potato salad to a pot-luck, and my Canadian classmates said it was very good. Since Canadians don`t usually rave and tell social lies to the extent Iranians do, I more or less believe them, and so, I am sharing the recipie with you:
Lots of mayonnaise.
Fresh lemon juice (optional, but works wonder in `cutting` the grease)
One egg (optional. Adds a certain creaminess to the texture, or, if you don`t have enough chicken, supplements the protein)
Put potatoes and carrot to boil. Also chicken to be boiled separately, and for God`s sake add some onions, turmeric and garlic while it`s boiling or you`ll stink the house out. Drain and let cool. Meanwhile, dice lots of pickled cucumbers. Use your discretion in determining the relative amount of potato and chicken, but don`t think nobody won`t notice if you use a really large amount of potato against really small amount of chicken.
Peel and dice potatoes. Remove bones and skins from chicken, shred in to small pieces. (If you`re really good, preserve the water which the chicken boiled in for stock, and brag about it to your mum.) Carrot may be grated or diced (I add for the colour, to relieve the blandness). Add peas, diced pickles, lemon juice and mix with a whole lot of mayonnaise. Careful with the salt, the pickles generally release a lot of saltiness as time goes on. Pepper and garlic powder are good spices, also some curry. Mix the whole lot thoroughly- you can even mash using hands or mashers. For smaller kids, creamier texture is preferable. Ideally, let stand in fridge a few hours before serving- it seems to reach optimal taste one day after preparation. Serve with fresh sliced tomatoes, more pickles, and fresh herbs such as dill or mint.