Russian salad, a classic Spanish tapa for summer


The Russian Salad (ensaladilla rusa) is a classic summer salad in Spain. For some people, a bit old fashion food, but I claim for its place in the traditional Spanish gastronomy as one of the best comfort food you can have!

But, hang on. Why is a Russian salad one of the classic Spanish tapas? Is it Russian or Spanish?

You can find Russian salad in many tapas “bares” in Spain. It is like part of the tapas display, it always has to be there. And in summer, before lunch, with a glass of fresh white wine or a vermouth, it is wonderful!

But, is it a Russian salad that we adopted in Spain or it is just a name?

There is a story behind and apparently, the recipe was made in Moscow for a French-Belgium chef Lucien Olivier. He ran a restaurant in Moscow during the 19th Century called the Hermitage. In the menu, chef Olivier included a salad with different ingredients, from meat to caviar, seafood, capers, boiled eggs, gherkins and potatoes. All of these ingredients were mixed and dressed with a mayonnaise with mustard and species. The customers loved this salad and called “Olivier Salad”.

Some restaurantes tried to copy the recipe but didn´t get it as Olivier never unveiled the recipe.

After the Russian Revolution, the Russian aristocrats exiled in Europe and the United States of America spread the recipe while in the Soviet Union adapted the Russina salad with a cheaper version without the luxury ingredients the original had.

During this trip along different countries, the Russian salad arrived in Spain with two different versions too, one with expensive ingredients and another one, with cheap ones. It was the cheap version the one who succeeded, made with potatoes and vegetables. Since then, the Russian salad is part of the Spanish gastronomy. There are many different versions, with many different ways to do it and in the end, each family has its own recipe.

As a curiosity, during the Franco´s dictatorship, the Government tried to change the name of the salad for “Imperial Salad” or “Nacional Salad” to avoid any name and link with anything that sounded communist. But this attempt didn´t succeed and people carried on calling “Russian Salad”.

Do you want to try my Russian salad? Then join me on the 5th of August at Cambridge Wine Merchants Cherry Hinton Rd as it will part of the Sunday Tapas Menu I will serve form 12:30 to 15:30. Please, book a table to avoid disappointments. 

Buen provecho!



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