Persian-style Russian salad with tarragon mayonnaise

Persian-style Russian salad with tarragon mayonnaise

Salad-e olivieh

Mark Roper

We were surprised to see interpretations of this oldfashioned favourite on buffet tables at restaurants and hotels around Iran. Russia’s history with neighbouring Iran is colourful, to say the least, including as it does numerous wars, occupation and the deposition of Reza Shah in 1943. We found it heartening in a way – another reminder that food crosses all barriers.

The success of this salad rests on the quality of the ingredients, so please use young, tender freshly cooked vegetables. I think the addition of chicken is entirely Iranian, but leave it out altogether if you prefer. Adding chicken makes for a heartier dish, and you can even use leftover roast chicken. Ironically, I suggest French tarragon, rather than its Russian cousin, as it has a much more intense aniseed flavour.

I’ve provided a recipe for a generous amount of mayonnaise, as it’s hard to make in small amounts – and it’s always good to have some in the fridge anyway! If you really can’t face making it yourself, then please use a good-quality bought one.


Quantity Ingredient
250g peas in the pod
or 100g frozen peas
400g waxy potatoes
6 baby carrots, lightly scraped
260g cooked free-range chicken breast, cut into small chunks
1/2 cup finely diced cornichons
3 hard-boiled eggs, finely chopped
2 tablespoons thick natural yoghurt or sour cream


Quantity Ingredient
1 large egg yolk
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
1 teaspoon white-wine vinegar
250ml olive oil
1/2 lemon, juiced
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons chopped tarragon leaves, to taste


  1. To make the mayonnaise, whisk the egg yolk with the mustard and vinegar until light and creamy. Gradually whisk in the oil, drop by drop, ensuring it has been incorporated before adding more. When you have added about half the oil you should have a thick, glossy paste. Loosen the mixture with the lemon juice, then continue to add the oil in a slow trickle, whisking all the while. Season with salt and pepper and stir in the chopped tarragon, adding more or less to taste. Refrigerate until ready to use.
  2. Shell the peas, if using fresh ones. Cook the potatoes, carrots and peas, separately, until tender. Peel the potatoes and cut into 1 cm dice. Cut the carrots into 1 cm chunks. Toss the vegetables together in a large mixing bowl and allow to cool.
  3. Add the chicken, cornichons and egg to the cooled vegetables and toss gently.
  4. In a separate bowl, mix the yoghurt with 3 tablespoons mayonnaise. Add to the salad and toss so that everything is lightly coated. Add a little more mayonnaise if necessary. Taste and adjust the seasoning to your liking.
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