Fins ain't what they used to be; Stephen JACKSON Stephen is co-owner and chef at T&Cake Cafe, Almondbury.
THIS week, especially as the weather seems to be holding up a bit better (cue enormous month-long downpour) I thought I'd make a wonderfully versatile light summer supper, using the very freshest tuna.
It's not often that I do fish recipes here on a Friday, for one reason; there's not much need to. Most fish and seafood is showcased at its very best when fiddled about with the least. The delicate flavour should not be masked by anything too forceful.
Most often the simplest touches are the most rewarding; take a fillet of sea bass, a fat scallop, or a firm white halibut steak - a splash of lime or lemon juice, a grind of pepper, a touch of salt and the gentle application of heat are all that are required to make the fish flavour shine.
You'll agree then, that my article would be pretty short if the recipe were that simple, but in all honesty I really don't like to play about with fish if at all possible.
Some fish, however, do enjoy the company of a few select ingredients, and, provided it's kept simple, the careful use of herbs, spices and tasty vegetables can really work wonders with our piscine friends.
Stronger white fish, such as pollack and john dory can withstand some mild spicing, even as far as a non-ferocious curry blend.
Sardines, mackerel and herrings, full of tasty, rich-tasting oils, are wonderful with tangy ingredients, like chutneys and even pickles, as well as the acidity of ripe tomatoes. A home-made version of the British snack-time classic sardines on toast, made with a wedge of toasted sourdough, fresh grilled sardines and a chunky, garlic-y tomato sauce, perhaps with a flick of fresh oregano, is a revelation.
Another fishy classic that has variants all around the Mediterranean is the Italian recipe Tonno e Fagioli, which translates as simply 'Tuna and Beans'.
The tuna is an important fish for many of the countries with fleets in the Mediterranean, and features heavily in the cuisines of Spain, France, Italy, Turkey, Greece and the North African states. The Atlantic Bluefin, once known as the tunny, is a ferocious, fast, muscular game-fish, much prized for its flavour, especially in Japan, and has sadly been over-fished, in places almost to the point of extinction. Adult fish can reach well over 6ft and 500lbs. They are pure muscle, and their deep ruby red flesh cooks exactly the way good beef does - a rare grilled blue-fin steak is utterly gorgeous.
So, folks, this recipe comes with the caveat that you buy your tuna ethically, be it fresh steaks or tins for sarnies. Look for line-caught fish, and spend a little more to ensure that this delicious, versatile fish is around for our children's children to enjoy. Traditionally, Tonno e Fagioli is a salad of white beans, usually but not exclusively cannellinis, bound with a little oil and lemon juice, tossed with top-quality canned tuna and lightly seasoned with herbs and other aromatics.
It's a delightful lunch, especially alfresco, easy to knock up and very tasty, the creamy delicateness of the beans matching well with the tasty tuna and piquancy of the aromatics and herbs added. This version uses a few additional flavours, all helping to balance that lovely tasty tuna, and I've used borlotti beans, primarily because I started cooking the recipe thinking I had a couple of tins of cannellinis in the cupboard and I hadn't! Out of such dramas come great dishes.
Or that's what we chefs always say! In actual fact, the borlottis added a surprising nutty note to the dish, which sat very well indeed, but made the dish quite different to the version using the creamy, eye-catching white beans. It's your choice to experiment.
Add fresh basil, toasted hazelnuts, healthy seeds, more chili, whatever you fancy. It's entirely up to you. Aprons on!
Stephen Jackson'sGrilled Bluefin Tuna With Beans Ingredients 4 x 200g thick tuna loin steaks 2 x 400g tins cooked cannellini or borlotti beans (or one of each), drained and rinsed 2 ripe tomatoes The juice and grated zest of 1 unwaxed lemon 2 small shallots, very finely sliced 2 cloves garlic, minced 1 small green chili, seeded and finely sliced A splash of dry white wine A little chicken or fish stock A handful of flatleaf parsley A handful of fresh rocket leaves Extra-virgin olive oil Maldon salt and fresh black pepper Method: First, prepare the tomatoes. Using a sharp knife, lightly score a cross through the skin of each tomato.
Heat a pan of water, and when it comes to the boil, pop in the tomatoes for about 30 seconds to one minute.
Take the tomatoes out of the pan and plunge into a bowl of ice-cold water to stop the cooking process.
When cold, skin the tomatoes, quarter them, and carefully remove the seeds.
Chop the flesh into small dice, and chill until required. Heat a splash of olive oil in a pan, and add the shallots.
Sweat them very gently until soft and just beginning to colour, then add the garlic and chili, and cook for a further couple of minutes.
Add a splash of white wine and reduce until almost gone, then add the beans and a little stock - just enough to moisten the dish.
To finish, add some chopped flatleaf parsley and the tomato, plus the lemon juice and grated zest. Test the seasoning.
Finally, season the tuna steaks well.
Fry or grill the tuna to your preference - I suggest medium rare is ideal - and serve sliced over a few spoonfuls of the hot beans.
Garnish with a little extra parsley and some fresh rocket to add a nice peppery finish, plus a drizzle of neat olive oil for flavour and looks.
* TASTY TUNA: Stephen Jackson's Grilled Bluefin Tuna With Beans