the first supper or 101 ways with tuna

confit of tuna  

The other day I was starting to plan the first dinner party in my new apartment. In my head visions of lamb shanks slow cooked to melting perfection were dueling with hearty pot roasted duck and a warm lentil salad when the ringing of my phone snapped me out of my reverie.

On the line was a lovely lady from the Sydney Fish Market saying that there were 2 cryovac packs of tuna left over from the Eyre Peninsula seafood tasting that I had been involved with the previous evening. Given I knew that the owners of this luscious fish were well and truly on their way home to Port Lincoln, it only seemed neighbourly for me to offer to take the remaining produce off her hands.

Rocking up to the markets to claim my tuna, you can imagine my surprise when I spied not a couple of dainty 1kg pieces but two whole sides of sashimi grade bluefin, a whopping 4kg each. That’s 8kg of fish people, talk about my lucky day.

A lovely lunch of tuna carpaccio got my tuna usage off to a memorable start. Tomatoes, rosemary and white beans were the base for a tuna cassolet that I squirreled away in the freezer for future consumption. Cooking in oil is an age oil preservation method so a kilo or so of tuna confit seemed like both the perfect start to a dinner and a great thing to have in the fridge for pate, salads, sandwiches and even the odd pasta dish.

The remainder of the lovely pink fleshed fish was cut into steaks, some to BBQ for my guests and have with egg & lemon sauce and an earthy lentil salad, the rest to freeze for a rainy day. Sacrilege, I know, to freeze such gorgeous fish but so much better than having to give it away….all good things…

the first supper – an ode to tuna
confit of tuna with witlof & crusty bread
BBQ tuna steaks with egg & lemon sauce
warm salad of lentils, cavalo nero & roast baby onions
chocolate & pear tart with semi whipped cream

confit of tuna with witlof & crusty bread
makes heaps
Adapted from the talented Janni Kyritsis in Wild Weed Pie.

Janni mentions that he discovered this method for cooking tuna by accident. The idea it to start the cooking process in the oven and then let the fish gently complete cooking as the oil cools.  As I mentioned about there are a million and one uses for this fish. Think of it as the poshest most succulent tuna in oil that you’re every likely to encounter.

1t ground coriander seeds
2T finely chopped parsley leaves
2T finely chopped coriander leaves
a 1kg piece tuna, preferably bluefin
extra virgin olive oil
4 small witlof
1T wholegrain mustard
1T white wine vinegar
2T extra virgin olive oil
crusty baguette, to serve

Preheat oven to 150C. Combine ground coriander, parsley and coriander leaves and scatter over a clean work surface. Roll tuna in the herb mix and place in an ovenproof container that is large enough to just hold the fish. Add oil to completely cover the fish and bake for 45mins or until a skewer inserted into the flesh feels warm to the touch. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. Refrigerate over night.

To serve, allow tuna to come to room temp. Cut off a large slice and place on a plate and drizzle with a generous amount of the cooking oil. Combine mustard, vinegar and oil and season. Separate witlof into individual leaves and toss in the dressing and serve in the middle of the table with the tuna and bread.

BBQ tuna steaks with egg & lemon dressing
Serves 6

The secret to good tuna steaks is to use the best quality tuna you can get your hands on and secondly not to cut them too thick. There’s nothing worse than tuna that’s dry and seared on the outside and still cold in the middle. The other trick is to get your BBQ searingly hot before you start.

6-12 tuna steaks, (1.2kg total) cut approx15mm thick
olive oil
6 eggs, hard boiled
Zest 2 lemons
75g (1/3C) whole egg mayonnaise
75g (1/3C) natural yoghurt
2T salted capers, rinsed
½ bunch chives, finely snipped with scissors
lemon pressed olive oil, optional, to serve
lemon wedges, to serve

For the sauce, peel and roughly chop the eggs and combine with remaining ingredients. Season to taste and refrigerate until required.

Preheat your BBQ. When very hot, rub both sides of your steaks with oil and season well. Sear for 2 mins on one side and then turn and seal the other side for 1-2mins depending on how thick the tuna is. I prefer mine still quite pink in the middle and nicely seared on the outside. Drizzle with lemon pressed oil if using and serve with lemon wedges and sauce.

warm salad of lentils, cavalo nero & roast baby onions
Serves 6

I’m a massive fan of lentils in general and warm lentil salads in particular. This makes a lovely earthy wintery accompaniment to the tuna but you could dress it up with some toasted walnuts and possibly a little goats cheese to make for a meal in it’s own right. Or there’s always the chorizo option.

The onion dressing is a real winner with the onions providing a sweet but still savoury complexity. It’s quite a robust dressing so good for winter salads. This makes more dressing than you’ll probably need but it keeps well in the refrigerator.

11 (approx 350g) baby pickling onions, peeled & halved lengthwise.
2T olive oil
1 large brown onion, finely chopped
250mL (1C) olive oil
60mL (1/4C) sherry vinegar
400g puy (blue green) lentils
2 bay leaves
2 cloves garlic
300g cavalo nero or baby spinach

For the onions, preheat oven to 200C. Toss onions in 2T oil and bake for 30mins or until golden and softened. Meanwhile for the dressing heat 250mL oil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and reduce to a simmer. Cook for approx 20mins or until onion is soft but not browned.

Combine lentils, bay leaves and garlic in a large saucepan. Cover with water and bring to the boil. Simmer for 15mins or until lentils are cooked but still hold their shape, adding extra water if the lentils dry out. Drain and discard bay leaves and garlic cloves.

Return lentils to the saucepan with the cavalo nero and enough dressing to coat. Return to the heat and cook stirring until the leaves have just started to wilt. Season well and serve salad on a platter with onion scattered over.

tuna pate
Makes approx 1 1/2C
Adapted from a recipe for Tuna & Caper Tramezzini by Adelaide Loucas in the May 2007 Australian Gourmet Traveller.

This dish wasn’t included in the first supper at my new abode. I actually made it for a recent boating trip on Sydney Harbour but am including it here after receiving a few requests for the recipe. If you aren’t up to making your own tuna confit you could try substituting in the best quality tinned tuna in oil that you can get your hands on. If you did go with this option, I’d reduce the amount of anchovies to one or two as the tinned tuna will be far more salty than home preserved.

Adelaide recommended preserved tuna belly called Ventresca which would be another good option if you can find it.

125g unsalted butter, softened
1-6 anchovy fillets, finely chopped
Zest 1 lemon
3T extra virgin olive oil (use the tuna oil if it is good quality)
300g tuna confit (see above) or a 425g can tuna in oil, drained and flaked
1T salted capers, well rinsed
2T lemon juice, or more to taste
celery sticks or crusty bread, to serve

Beat butter with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add anchovy, lemon zest, and oil and continue to beat until combined. Stir through tuna, capers, and lemon juice to taste. Season and refrigerate until required. Serve with crusty bread & celery sticks
 

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