Saturday, October 29, 2005

Tuna and tasty weeds

My neighbour tugged at a patch of weeds in her garden and triumphantly said “Sorrel! Make yourself some soup” as she handed me a clump.

I cleaned them, took a good look and thought, no not in a soup kind of mood, what else can I do with you? I was tempted to shred it to give a salad some perky lemon-ness. But I had some tuna and thought, I must be able to combine them some how.

I found a Gay Bilson recipe, by way of Rick Stein, of seared tuna on sorrel and olives. I was warned that this bright green herb would turn brown and slimy on cooking, but not to be deterred.

Instead – this is what I concocted.

Buckwheat soba with tuna, sorrel and olives

Roll chunk of fresh tuna in crushed black pepper (see tuna salad recipe below) and sear, so the middle is still pink. Put aside. Rest. Then cut into mouth sized pieces.

Cook buckwheat noodles til al dente.

Slice an onion vertically, sauté in olive oil and add a generous amount of crushed garlic.

Add a handful of kalimata olives (these were the ones I have marinated in olive oil with garlic, rosemary, chilli, bay leaves and pepper corns), pitted and chopped.

Stir in the clean, de-ribbed sorrel and lastly the tuna. Toss briefly. Throw in the noodles. Add pepper, salt and lemon juice if you must –according to the demands your palate.

Slimy brown stuff isn’t the most picturesque, but it sure tastes good.

Seared tuna salad

The salad base – mixed lettuces, fennel, avocado, spring onion, cucumber, carrot, blanched asparagus (whatever is in fridge)

Vinaigrette – pretty basic just olive oil, Dijon mustard, lemon juice.

A small chunk of fresh tuna (I love it but eat it less often now due to the mercury levels alas). Rub with garlic and a little olive oil, roll in cracked pepper. In a non stick pan or griddle sear the outside. Let it rest for a minute and slice. It’s soft and raw on the inside and the outside is tasty and cooked.

Combine salad, with tuna and dressing. Eat.

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Thursday, October 27, 2005


"A square egg in a dish of lentils won't make a marrow bend with the wind, nor will it make rhubarb grow up the milkmaid's leg." (Les Dawson)

A breakfast companion through last winter was a weekly batch of stewed rhubarb. In autumn my friend disappeared but this week was back bigger than ever, at my favourite organic stall at Vic Market. And when I say ‘bigger than ever’ I mean it – fine stalks over a metre long. “Bring me home,” they whispered. So I did.

I call it stewed rhubarb because that’s what it was at home. Even now my parent’s garden has been converted to lawn, the hardy rhubarb plants guard the perimeter of what once was lush with corn, strawberries, beans, parsley and other delights I can only just remember. Mum stews me up some everytime I visit. Without such a patch at my fingertips it is now a luxury, a dish so mighty we can elevate it to compote status.

Rhubarb compote with roses and other pleasures

Clean rhubarb, top, tail and pull off any outer stringy bits if they are tough.

Chop into 3-4 cm lengths (or whatever takes your fancy). Put in just enough water to cover the bottom of a heavy based pan.

If you have apples (I did, some pink lady’s) peel, chop and add. Pears are ok or sultanas are another favourite.

I threw in a few organic strawberries – just for the hell of it.

Add sweetener of choice. Today it was a generous dollop of rice syrup. I love it, it’s sweet without being overwhelming.

Cook on a very low heat, covered, stirring frequently.

Cooking time depends on the size and amount of your fruit. This lot took about 15-20 minutes.

When almost cooked, taste to see if it needs a bit of sugar to get the right balance of tart and sweet. I like to still taste a hint of acid but not enough to feel as if the enamel is being stripped from my teeth. Add a splash of rose water. Stir. Cover. Turn off the heat and let it stew, err compote, a while.

Warm, sweet, tart, rosey, delicious.

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