Finally, Albacore tuna is available again in one stall at the Queen Victoria market. This tuna is sustainable, it is a lean fish and it can be quite dry if served without a sauce.
You can buy albacore tuna cut as a fillet or as slices from the centre of the fish – this cut will include the spinal bones and if you are braising the fish the bones will contribute to the taste. In Sicily this cut of tuna is called a ruota (wheel); the bones can then be easily removed at the time of serving. The wheel of tuna will have the skin still on make sure that the scales have been removed and make splits into the skin to stop it curling. Or you can remove the skin altogether.
Tuna and peas is a very common combination for Italians. I remember so vividly my maternal grandmother cooking wheels of tuna in very crowded saucepans, bubbling away on her stove in Catania, Sicily. Sometimes she also added tomatoes to the braise and studded the tuna with cloves of garlic.
Peas are sweet, hence the cinnamon stick. Sometimes I add nutmeg instead (for the same reason). Both the cinnamon and the nutmeg are optional; if using nutmeg, add it at the final stages of cooking.
Once cooked, you can also remove the centre bone, break up the tuna and serve it as a pasta sauce.
For 4 people
1 slice of albacore tuna (about 700g)
400g of shelled peas
½ cup of extra virgin olive oil,
salt and pepper
2-3 fresh bay leaves
1tbs tomato paste for colour (optional)
1 cup of white dry wine
1-2 cinnamon sticks or some grated nutmeg (optional)
Sauté the chopped onion lightly in the oil – use low heat.
Add the tuna and seal on both sides.
Add seasoning, bay leaves, wine and cinnamon stick.
Cover and simmer for 15-20 minutes. Add the peas 10 minutes into the cooking and If adding nutmeg add it at this time. Do not let the braise get dry and add a little more liquid (water and or wine) if necessary.
If using it as a pasta sauce:
Use 400 g pasta, short shapes.
Leave the fish in the pan while you cook the pasta.
Remove the central bones from the tuna (if there are any) and return them to the pan.
Dress the pasta and serve.
Unlike the rest of Italy, Sicilians include grated cheese with fish.