Monday, 7 September 2015
Raw tuna with garden leaves, olives, capers and lemon
This year our estate has undertaken a massive and brilliant community-driven project. The old, unused football pitch that used to score more deals than goals was ripped up, and replaced with raised beds, a bbq area and lawn. Katie’s mum and a few other members of the estate have worked tirelessly to orchestrate the project, and persuade the council to grant help and funding. And a few months ago there was celebration as the first seeds were sown. The finished garden looks fantastic, and it totally changes the atmosphere of the estate, bringing together a much stronger core of community. The residents have fully embraced it, and now into autumn the beds are heaving with the lush fruits of their labour. Oregano, rosemary and courgettes grow next to pumpkins, coriander and curry leaves. For a cooking enthusiast like me it is perfect, and I can wander outside in the evening with a pair of scissors, snipping here and there before returning with bunches of fresh herbs that transform simple suppers.
One of my favourite moments from this summer was sitting outside with Katie’s mum, sharing a plate of freshly-cut tuna flavoured with the herbs that she had planted. It was a scorching hot mid-summers day, and I had just returned home from work. As a fishmonger I am lucky that I have instant access to whatever is the pick of the slab, and on that day the tuna had really shone. Quite literally, it’s surface shimmering with ruby red, to the point where it would have been a scandal to expose it to any heat or frying pan. A few perfumed leaves and a glug of good extra virgin olive oil were all that was needed. Scooped up onto crisp bits of grilled focaccia and downed with icy, dry white wine it was a memorable afternoon.
Tuna is something that I try not to eat too often, but once in a while it can provide a real treat. The important thing is to try and get your hands on the freshest, highest-grade that you can. You don’t need a lot, and as with all raw protein, a little goes a long way. This is less of a recipe than an assembly of ingredients, all balanced and in harmony with one another. Tasting as you go is essential; the prize is the tuna, and you very much want it’s subtlety at the centre, just spiked here and there with the herby, tangy accompaniments.
250g very fresh, sashimi-grade tuna
½ a garlic clove
1 tsp salted capers, rinsed
5-6 good green olives
1 tbsp finely diced shallot
½ a lemon, zest and juice
A sprinkle of dried chilli flakes
3-4 tbsp very good olive oil
A handful of nasturtium leaves and flowers
A few sprigs of fresh oregano
Thinly sliced ciabatta or focaccia
First make the dressing for the tuna. Very finely dice the garlic, capers, olives and shallot and slide into a bowl. Season well and combine with the lemon zest and juice, chilli flakes and a generous pinch of seasoning.
Take the tuna out of the fridge 20 minutes before serving to allow it to come to room temperature. Trim away any sinew, then carefully slice into small dice. Tip into a large bowl.
Spoon half of the dressing into the tuna bowl and pour in a good glug of olive oil. Mix together until well combined, then taste. Add more of the flavourings as needed along with more seasoning.
Spread the raw tuna onto each plate. Dress the nasturtiums with a little oil and scatter on top, along with the freshly picked oregano leaves. Finally drizzle over another glug of extra virgin olive oil. Serve with the toasted bread on the side.