fresh tuna salad – insalata di tonno fresco

insalata di tonnoWhat I really needed yesterday evening was a steaming, hot beef stew. But of course, that would have meant, amongst other things, planning slightly ahead, at least slightly enough ahead to slip to the butcher’s in the morning and stock up on stewing steak. Before you ask why, having missed my morning window of opportunity, I didn’t just buy some meat in the afternoon, I should tell you that butchers here only open in the morning. This remains an unsolved mystery for me, despite having lived here for years. And in any case, yesterday morning I had no reason to presume that stew weather was on the way, also because I had been assured by an idiot friend that it would definitely not rain, and that the black clouds overhead were deceptive. He knew. He had inside knowledge (the way he was talking, you would have thought he was on Thor’s Christmas card list). Anyway, to cut a long, and very wet story short, I listened to my idiot friend, proving myself to be even more of an idiot than him, braved the trip home from work on my bicycle, and arrived there psychologically preparing myself for pneumonia, cursing said idiot friend and once again wondering, as I wrung out my clothes, why, now you come to mention it, the local butchers are in fact closed in the afternoon. I could have popped to the supermarket of course, but their meat is often of appalling quality and imported (if I can buy good locally- or nationally-sourced meat, why should I get it shipped in from half-way across the globe?). So, meatless, I settled for a bowl of soup, and today, as I fill myself to the brim with aspirin and self-pity, having lost the will to cook, I will instead share with you something I prepared earlier, a few weeks back when it was still sunny here. For the carnivores among you, rest assured – a Sicilian-style stew will be along any day now. Presuming of course that I can wade my way to the butcher’s.

So, back to sunnier times, and tuna. Even though we’re well into autumn, fresh tuna still makes me think of the summer, the summer that all of a sudden seems so far away. Tuna at this time of year also means tonnetti, which, despite the name, are not baby tuna, but a species unto their own, albeit from the same family, scombridae. Don’t worry; I’m not going to give you an in-depth analysis of all the various species. Any kind of tuna will do, as long as it’s fresh. I love tinned tuna; well, I love tuna in practically any form, to be honest. But tinned tuna is for mixing with mayo and putting in sandwiches, or with capers for stuffing pickled cherry chillies. No, for this recipe, do yourself a favour and get something from the fishmonger. And for once, we needn’t worry about getting the names right either.

This is simplicity itself, which is what you need to buck up your spirits with the sudden arrival of autumn/winter/the new ice age. And it’s also sufficiently summery to kid you that it’s only a passing shower/tempest/biblical deluge. What lifts it out of the humdrum and excites the taste buds is the addition of lemon zest and mint. Lime also works wonderfully, as does some coriander, but that would start to give things a south-east Asian twist, and before I know it, I’ll have Sicilian housewives round beating me with rolling pins, so I’d better be careful.

Serves 6:

  • 500g fresh tuna
  • 2 spring onions or one small red onion, chopped
  • a small bunch of parsley, chopped
  • a small bunch of mint, chopped
  • juice and zest of 2 lemons
  • 4 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
  • sea salt, freshly ground black pepper
  1. Boil the tuna in salted water until cooked. The exact time will depend on how thickly your tuna is cut. You’re better off with a single piece than steaks for this recipe. A single piece of about half a kilo might take up to 25 minutes, but start checking it for doneness after 20.
  2. Remove any bones from the tuna and break it up into flakes. Mix with all the other ingredients.
  3. Tear off a few chunks of crusty bread to go with it, pour yourself a glass of something white, fresh and citrusy, tuck in and reminisce about summer.


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