Tuna: Tinned vs. Fresh

When you think of tuna, what do you imagine?

a) A small, round tin.
b) Annoying oil or brine that you have to precariously drain from it.
c) A sandwich filling.
d) An “adventurous” addition to your salad, pasta or baked potato.
e) Good with mayonnaise. Lots of mayonnaise.

If you have answered “yes” to any or all of the above, read on.

Tuna is a fish. It looks like this.

Not like this.

Before it got there it was a beautiful, pink, luscious steak, and I’m aware it costs a lot more than the 95p-per-tin alternative you find in Tesco. However, if you were offered anything else that used to be an animal, in a tin, for 95p, would you buy it? Sometimes things are just too cheap.

So, I have two recipes that use the real deal. One is my creation, another is one of Rowley Leigh’s which I stumbled across in the FT Weekend Magazine a couple of weeks ago. They are both delicious and worth trying, if only to remember what real tuna tastes like. Notably, both recipes require good tuna, and I would recommend buying from the fishmongers on South Street, Andrew Keracher. Everything is seriously fresh and, for its quality, good value.

Tuna Steaks with Basil Crème Fraiche

(Serves 2)


Half a bunch of basil
Half a pot of crème fraiche
Half a lemon
Salt and pepper
Two medium tuna steaks
Salad leaves
Cherry/vine tomatoes
A bunch of asparagus (optional)

Take the basil and remove the leaves, grind these up in a pestle and mortar (or chop really finely) and add to the crème fraiche. Add a squeeze of lemon and a little bit of salt and pepper for seasoning.

Season your tuna steaks and coat in a light glaze of good olive oil. Get a griddle (or aor sturdy frying pan and get it warmed up. Meanwhile, get your plates ready. Grab some nice pre-washed,
pre-packaged salad of your choice (baby leaves are my favourite) and cut some cherry or vine tomatoes in half. You can add some pine nuts if you fancy.

Now, for the steaks. They only want about 2 minutes cooking on each side – any longer and they’ll be tough. You’ll be able to see the colour change as you’re cooking, and as soon as the visible cross-section is cooked through, the middle of the steak will be just right. Obviously cook it for longer if you’re squeamish about raw fish.

Now, plonk it on your bed of salad, and dollop your crème fraiche sauce on top of the tuna. Serve immediately. You can also griddle some asparagus to have with this to make it a more substantial meal… just cut the ends off and cook them for about six minutes.


For the next recipe, you’ll want to buy your tuna on the day you’re intending to eat it, because you won’t be cooking it. Trust me, it’s delicious.


Raw Tuna with Citrus Dressing

Now this serves six as a starter, but if you want it as a main meal, then it will be perfect as a lunch for two.

2 Oranges
1 Seville orange
1 Lemon
A pinch of chilli flakes
1tsp Balsamic vinegar
75ml Olive oil
Salt and pepper
Two medium tuna steaks

So, for the dressing. Cut off both ends of the oranges and lemon and place on a board. Get a sharp knife and start to cut around the fruit from top to bottom, making sure to remove all of the skin and the pith. Hold it your hand and remove the segments of the fruit with a knife from between the “pithy walls” and remove any pips. Place them in a bowl. Add the chilli flakes and season with plenty of salt and pepper. Whisk vigorously until the fruit is all broken up, then add the balsamic vinegar and the oil.
All you need to do with the tuna is cut it into really thin slices – the thickness of a penny is what you’re aiming for. Now just spoon over the dressing and after giving it 15 minutes to soak up all the flavours, serve. 

This dish, at the chef’s recommendation, goes incredibly well with a Spatlese Riesling – available at Luvian’s Bottle shop from £10.99. It’s not very alcoholic and therefore perfect as a “lunching wine.”

Editor's Note: Tuna is fast becoming an endangered species, due to overfishing of the world's oceans. If possible, buy hook-and-line caught tuna to support eco-friendly fishing practices and avoid bluefin tuna at all costs!

Images sources from Dinner: A Love Story, The New York Times, Glamour Magazine and Jamie Oliver. Compiled by Jenni Dimmock.