Iranian-Style Chicken & Potato Salad (Olivier Salad)
I know I’ve been missing in action for a while but here I am again with a delicious olovieh salad recipe which I hope you will make and enjoy during the holiday season. Salad olovieh is our version of the Russian salad also known as Olivier salad. Many countries have a version of this salad created in 1860s by Belgian Lucien Olivier, the chef of the Hermitage, one of Moscow’s grandest restaurants, and so does Iran.
The Iranian version, like all of the other versions of Olivier’s grand creation, isn’t even remotely similar to the original. His salad included smoked duck, crayfish, veal tongue, grouse and even caviar. Most contemporary versions are meatless or are made with ham or other cold meat. The Iranian version uses shredded chicken.
The first time I had this delicious salad was at a birthday party when I was about ten years old. For some reason In Iran it has become a standard children’s birthday party dish but it’s very popular with grown-ups too. You are likely to find olovieh salad on almost every buffet table and very often on picnic spreads. One can almost say it has been naturalised on Iranian soil but the history of olovieh salad in Iran is probably just a little over sixty or seventy years long.
Salad olovieh sounds like a very old-fashioned dish, and it is, but it’s really moreish and versatile. You can serve it at brunch or for a BBQ party or as a sandwich filling. I think using herby, slightly tart fermented cucumber pickles is what makes this salad taste much fresher than a regular mayonnaise-based potato salad.
Use shop-bought Iranian khiyar shoor or any Middle-Eastern, Turkish or Polish whole cucumber/gherkin pickles made without sugar. Polish cucumber pickles work really well in this salad and are available from most Polish delis and supermarkets. Do shred the chicken breast instead of chopping it because shredded chicken gives a very nice texture to the salad. I like to use rotisserie chicken breasts because they are very flavourful (and you don’t even need to cook the chicken). If you prefer, poach a chicken breast with a stick of celery, a carrot and a quartered onion, a few peppercorns, half a bay leaf and salt and use it instead.
- 1 rotisserie chicken breast, skinned and shredded
- 2 medium baking potatoes
- 1 medium carrot
- 150g pickled cucumbers, preferably Iranian
- 2 hard-boiled eggs
- 100g cooked peas
- 5 tbsp mayonnaise
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice or ½ tbsp white wine vinegar
- White pepper
- Boil the potatoes (in their jackets) and the carrot in salted water. Allow to cool completely.
- Peel and dice or grate the potatoes. Dice the carrot, pickles and eggs. Mix well with the shredded chicken and peas.
- Mix the mayonnaise with the lemon juice or vinegar and white pepper and pour over the chopped ingredients. Mix well. Add more mayonnaise or some olive oil if the salad looks too dry.
- Chill in the fridge for at least two hours. Serve piled in a bowl or on a lettuce-lined plate and decorate with more mayonnaise, peas or pickles if you wish. Enjoy!