confit tuna & bean salad
“You can’t make friends with salad” he said, eying my lunch critically.
“You watch the Gilmore Girls too?” I exclaimed, amazed at this unexpected revelation of his character.
“The Gilmore Girls? It’s a quote from the Simpsons…” said he, confused and doubly critical.
“I guess that’s where Lorelai got the saying from then…” murmured I, embarrassed as I scuttled away with my lunch, “I have to go study now. Bye!”
It is a constant failing of mine, this inability to properly reference elements of popular culture. Â And, despite having completed a public communications degree (in which popular culture was a subject… the shame!) I’m still unable to distinguish Boy George from George Michael (both high pitched, dubiously male singers). I unwittingly classify the Cullen family as “muggles” and can never quite be sure which of the (millions of) Kardashian sisters has modelled for a men’s mag / given birth / opened a toilet.
“But I can solve a polynomial equation!” I would think to myself, after mistaking Usher for Nelly.
“But I can structure an essay!” I would think, despairingly, when mistaking Johnny Depp for Orlando Bloom.
“But I can identify the likely cause of action in this factual scenario based on the elements that need to be proven… and reference each element without referring to my notes in this closed book exam!” I would sigh, internally, whilst simultaneously vowing to listen to more commercial radio and to watch more commercial television.
I’ve since learnt that most, if not all, popular culture quotes can be referenced back to a single yellow cartoon family. Â And (as a semi-unrelated aside, and useful segue) that one can, indeed, make friends with salad.
Especially when said salad is devoid of the flaccid sticks of carrot, insipid shards of iceberg lettuce and lurid bottled dressing that I grew accustomed to growing up as a child of Asian parentage. One in which vegetables were only eaten raw as a result of a blackout.
This is no such salad.
Instead there are juicy, cool tomatoes intermingled with warm, velvety beans. Toothsome flakes of confit tuna brightened by a hit of minced parsley and lemon juice. Â Herbed, citrussy olive oil melding the flavours together.
And, for the poor and flavour hungry, it’s highly adaptable.
Want a slightly creamier dressing? Stir a dollop of natural yoghurt through the confit oil.
Can’t do a meal without carbs? Add some torn pieces of crusty bread. Or, alternatively, sub half the beans for boiled pasta.
Can’t be bothered confit-ing your own tuna steak on a Wednesday evening? Buy a couple of tins of good quality tuna flakes in oil and toss that in instead.
If you do confit the tuna, though, I’d recommend pouring the leftover oil into a bottle and storing it in the fridge. Â It is absolutely delicious when eaten with bread and some drippy balsamic vinegar. Or, you could also use it to toss your potatoes in before baking for a subtle, yet fragrant, hit.
Very useful, very versatile. And quick enough for you to make and eat in time for whatever it is that kids watch these days…
confit tuna & bean salad
serves 4 as a light meal
you will need:
for the confit tuna
300g tuna steak
7-8 sprigs of thyme
4 cloves of garlic
500ml olive oil
for the salad
3 ox heart tomatoes
1/2 bunch parsley
2 tins butter beans (drained)
how to do it:
1. Peel the lemon with a vegetable peeler. Â I quite like a little bit of that pithy bitterness, but if you don’t zest it instead. Â Mince the garlic finely.
2. Find a small saucepan that will fit the tuna with about 1cm on each side. Â If you don’t have a saucepan this size, you may need to use more oil and seasonings.
3. Pour the oil into the saucepan and add the lemon rind, garlic and thyme. Â Heat over a low flame until the oil starts to bubble slightly. Â Let it bubble away for about 5 minutes or until you start to see some of the garlic start to brown and the lemon peel curls up. Â This means that the lemon oils have been released into the olive oil. Â The browned garlic will add a nutty flavour.
4. Pop the tuna in, ensuring the oil covers the top of the tuna. Let it sit in the lightly bubbling oil for five minutes. Â Turn the tuna and leave it for another five minutes. Â Remove from heat.
5. Pull the tuna out (it should still be slightly pink in the middle) and use forks to flake it. Â Strain the oil (don’t throw it away! It’s the salad dressing!)
6. While the tuna is cooking, dice the tomatoes (you can use any tomatoes, but I found some lovely ox heart tomatoes at the local markets, and they taste so… tomatoey!), finely shred the parsley and drain the beans.
6A. If you can be bothered (and I can), add some of the confit oil to a saucepan, toss the beans in and stir to pan fry them to warm through. Â As an added bonus, some of the beans will have a wonderfully crisp edge and they will slightly take on the flavour of the oil.
7. Combine the beans, tomato, tuna and parsley in a bowl. Â Dress with salt, pepper, a squeeze of lemon juice and some of the confit oil. Â Eat immediately.