Tasty tuna

Being a fan of tinned tuna, this clip – ‘Yes we can! 17 delicious ways with tinned tuna, from salade nicoise to melts and fishcakes’ – bought on an unjustified twinge of hunger in me – it was 8:30 in the morning and I’d just eaten breakfast. Packed full of tasty-looking recipes, I rapidly changed my plans for supper that night, and picked one to try. Having searched the kitchen and found an out of date pack of orzo in the cupboard and a few almost mouldy olives in the fridge, I chose  Ottolenghi’s baked orzo puttanesca (see featured image). I didn’t use the exact ingredients he suggested but substituted with what we had. It was delicious!

If you want to say to me, ‘how could you eat that pet food? Ugh!’ Let me tell you I’m used to those comments. My wife says them every week when I make my own version of salad niçoise (recipe later). I’m quite fussy, and having tried almost every tin of tuna on the market, I’ve settled on a couple of brands I like and are sustainably sourced, and buy whichever one of them is on offer each week, but being the only person in the household to eat tinned tuna, I have to buy the mini cans. 

My love affair with tuna started with fresh tuna, which I still buy for a treat now and again – searing it for only one minute on each side, leaving it uncooked inside. Again, delicious. But with sustainable fresh tuna being expensive, I’ve tried and like tinned.   

Salad Niçoise – my recipe for one.

This is very rough and ready and influenced by what I find in the fridge.

  • Tinned tuna 80-150g
  • New potatoes 100g
  • Half a fennel bulb
  • One red pepper (I deseed mine, but it’s not necessary)
  • About 80g of fresh kale, uncooked and finely sliced. (lettuce or another brassica is fine, I like the strong taste of raw kale)
  • Small handful of olives
  • Handful of coriander (again not essential, depending on what’s left over), well chopped
  • Capers: about a dessertspoonful
  • 3 or 4 tinned anchovies, chopped (optional)
  • One hard-boiled egg
  • Sometimes I throw in a handful of croutons
  • Seasoning

Method

Turn the oven on to 180 fan. Put the potatoes and egg on to boil, seperatedly. Slice the fennel and the pepper into thin 1cm slices and place in an oven proof dish. Season, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle over half a teaspoon of a hot spice – I use ras el hanout, but chilli, za’rtar, smoked paprika, and similar are all good; use whatever takes your fancy. Now give the fennel and pepper with the seasoning and spice a good stir around before putting in the preheated oven for twenty minutes. Meanwhile, chop the kale very thinly, place in a big bowl, and dress with olive oil, a little wine vinegar, and pepper and salt. Massage the dressing into the kale, using your hands. Once massaged, leave for at least ten minutes. When the egg has boiled for eight to ten minutes, take it out, run it under a cold tap for two to three minutes, then peel off the shell and leave aside. Check the potatoes. If they’re cooked, drain and leave aside. By now the fennel and peppers should be ready. If so, take them out of the oven and leave to cool a little.

Open the tin of tuna, drain, and break it up with a fork. Add the potatoes and tuna to the kale and toss around. Scrape the fennel and peppers into the bowl, making sure to scoop in most of the cooking oil. Now add the olives, capers, coriander and anchovies and toss all again. Chop or slice the egg to your liking and add, together with croutons if using. Season, and give the whole thing another light toss. It’s now ready to eat. Enjoy    

Experiment and play around with this dish. Use tinned beans or cold, cooked green beans instead of the peppers and fennel, and cold, cooked pasta instead of the potatoes. Use as little or as much tuna as you wish. It really is an easy dish to get together in about half-an-hour, usually from what’s in the cupboard. It could still be a little warm when you eat it but is fine cold.

My latest book, Otto and Frankie, is available in all formats. It’s different from anything else I’ve written and took almost three years in the making. 

It’s about a dying man’s fight against injustice, his wife’s unusual affair, and the love from his long-lost daughter. 

A compelling read, I’m told.

amazon.co.uk. amazon.com.

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