I have been accused by some – well, practically everybody who has had the dubious pleasure of food shopping in my company – of striking the fear of God into market traders. I have been told that they look on anxiously as I prod, sniff and scrutinise their produce, like the lead-up to one of those “The man from del Monte says ‘yes’” moments. Except of course that I don’t always say yes. And apparently my general demeanour is more mobster “showing the local lads who’s boss” than “suave panama-wearing Roger Moore lookalike smiling indulgently at benevolent tropical farmers”. More East End than East Indies. While we’re on the subject, though, smooth as he may be, I can’t help feeling the MfdM is not actually as squeaky clean as he looks. Aren’t the flying boats, Graham Greene settings, sunglasses, binoculars, watch-towers, and walkie-talkies ever so slightly suspicous? One starts to wonder if the tinned fruit is just a front, and the adverts are actually a PR exercise commissioned by the Colombian mafia. And the strangeness doesn’t stop there: the MfdM clearly knows which side his breadfruit is buttered on, spending his life whisked around in a private luxury plane, being cossetted to the point of excess, and saying “yes” when the mood takes him. So why on earth he stoops to getting his juice from a carton is beyond me. You would have thought his seal of approval stopped short of actually drinking the stuff himself. I can’t see Mr Findus cooking fish fingers for dinner.
Anyway, the point is, getting back to the main subject, that the MfdM met his match the other day, in the form of the fishmonger you see in the photo above. He said that what I wanted was albacore steaks, and I didn’t really feel like contradicting him, somehow. As a rule of thumb, a long life and contradicting huge men with bloody hands gripping cleavers tend to be mutually exclusive. The albacores are the fish on the bottom right, by the way, and are a species of tuna, distinguished by their long pectoral fins (hence their Italian name alalunga, literally “long wing”). When cooked, the flesh is whiter and slightly more delicate in flavour than species such as bluefin, but still has that typical meaty tuna taste. The MfdM would surely approve.
- 4 albacore steaks
- Flour, seasoned with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Olive oil for frying
For the salmoriglio:
- 1 large unwaxed lemon
- Handful of fresh mint, chopped
- 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Pat the steaks dry with kitchen paper and dip into the flour, coating well and then shaking off any excess.
- Heat a little oil in a non-stick frying pan, and fry the steaks over a medium-high heat until golden on both sides (about five minutes).
- Meanwhile, get to work with zesters, knives and juicers to obtain the zest and juice of the lemon. Put the zest and juice in a small bowl with the chopped mint and oil. Beat together with a fork and season with salt and pepper to taste.
- When the fish is ready, drizzle over some of the salmoriglio and serve with the remaining dressing in a bowl so that people can help themselves to more (they will).
A zesty Sicilian white would go well with this (the Cataratto variety springs to mind)