According to meteorologists we are overdue a long, balmy, Mediterranean summer. Last year statisticians told us that there had never been three bad summers in a row, so ’99 was forecast to be a scorcher. Well they were wrong, so maybe, just maybe, 2010 is the one we’re waiting for.
Already we’ve had a brief glimpse of what may lay ahead of us. The recent short spell of good weather resulted in barbeques up & down the country being uncovered, de-slugged & fired up. Ever since the days when ‘Homo Erectus’ wandered the earth, around 50,000 years ago, the primal urges of cooking outside over fire, is too much for any red-blooded male to resist.
The typical Irish family barbeque is normally a fairly carnivorous affair, but there is so much more you can cook on a barbeque if you are prepared to look beyond the burger.
I find meaty fish steaks, like swordfish or tuna, make perfect barbeque fodder. They hold together well on the grill as their flesh is firm and as long as they’re not overcooked, are succulent & juicy to eat.
This weeks recipe incorporates perhaps my favourite pasta sauce ‘puttanesca’ with char-grilled or barbequed tuna steak. The sauce is remarkably spicy and tangy with the strong flavours of garlic, chilli, olives, anchovies, capers & tomato combining to make a powerful accompaniment to the fresh tuna.
Puttanesca is a relatively modern Italian sauce, thought to originate in the Bay of Naples in the early to mid-twentieth century. Literally translated it means ‘whore’s sauce’, the reason for which has a number of possible explanations. One being that it is cheap, fast & easy, another is that the prostitutes of Naples would make up a pan of the rich sauce, leave on their window sills & hope that pungent aroma would entice in would-be customers.
Yet another explanation is that prostitutes would offer their services to chefs in the back alleys behind their restaurants in return for a bite to eat. The chefs would obligingly throw together a pasta dish with whatever cheap ingredients were left over & not likely to be missed by the Head Chef or proprietor.
More often than not this would be a tomato based sauce with garlic, chillis, anchovies, capers & olives. All of which would be stock larder items in any Italian restaurant.
On our specials board in La Bucca, we currently have ‘Tonno con Tagliatelle alla Puttanesca’, or in plain English ‘Tuna steak with tagliatelle tossed in whore’s sauce’. This dish brings together the firm fleshy meat of char-grilled tuna & the piquant spiciness of puttanesca sauce.
Even if it’s not on the board, all the ingredients for a good puttanesca are at hand in our kitchens, so just give the chefs a wink and ask if they’ll knock up a puttanesca for you, they’ll happily oblige.
Tuna Steak con Puttanesca : Ingredients for four
4 good sized tuna steaks from your fishmonger
1 chopped fresh red chilli
2 cloves finely chopped garlic
1 large onion chopped
25g finely chopped anchovies
25g chopped capers
Handful fresh basil leaves
1 tblspn tomato puree
1 tin chopped tomatoes
Good splash of white wine
Salt, pepper & sugar
Jar of pitted black olives.
Wedge of lime.
450g Tagliatelle pasta.
Remove all winter creatures from you barbeque, scrub it down & fire it up.
Heat the oil in a pan, add the onions, then the garlic & cook until soft. Add the chillis, capers & anchovies, stir for one minute. Pour in the wine & reduce for two minutes. Add the tomato puree & stir for one minute. Add the chopped tomatoes, salt, pepper & sugar to taste & stir the mixture till it boils.
Reduce the heat & cook slowly for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Boil a large pan of water with a little olive oil & salt added. Add the pasta & cook until ‘al dente’. Add the pasta, basil & olives to the sauce & toss through.
Rub your tuna steaks with oil, season with black pepper & throw them on the Barbie. Squeeze fresh lime over the steaks & cook for 3/4 minutes on each side, depending on the thickness of the steak & the heat of the barbeque. Be careful not to overcook, or all of the inner juices will dry out.
Build a bed of pasta in a bowl & top it with your tuna steak. Add a wedge of lime.