In Australia we have different types of tuna: Albacore, Bigeye, Southern Bluefin and Yellowfin tunas. Bonito and mackerel as well as tuna are part of the same family (Scombridae).
Albacore tuna is sustainable, cheap in price and much under-rated in Australia. It is not sashimi grade so the Asian export market does not want it and I think that this is the reason why in Australia we tend to undervalue it. It is denser in texture but excellent for braising (lightly or cooked for longer). Generally it is sold as a wheel but I have also been able to buy it as a fillet – perfect for baking and braising in one piece.
When I see Albacore tuna I grab it. It is caught in winter on the coast of Southern New South Wales but unfortunately not many fish vendors stock it.
This is Mike holding one of the Albacore tuna at his stall in the Queen Victoria Market. He looks very noble in this photo.
In this recipe the tuna is lightly braised and has slivers of garlic and mint studded throughout the pieces of fish. The rest of the ingredients and cooking style are Sicilian through and through.
I prefer to use a large round piece of Albacore tuna for this dish, which can be separated into 4 portions.
The following recipe is for 4 people
INGREDIENTS and PROCESSfish, 4 pieces onion, 1 chopped thinly garlic, 2 cloves, cut into halves (or thinner) fresh mint, 4+ leaves (or sage leaves in winter because mint is not doing well) 4 anchovies green olives, 8 -10 extra virgin olive oil, ¼ cup salt and chilli flakes to taste red wine vinegar, 1 splash – about 1 tablespoon sugar, ¾ tsp orange, 4 slices , these are optional and a modern take on this recipe. If you are going to add them sauté them before you add the sugar and vinegar Cut the 4 portions of tuna from the round piece. Discard the skin around the outside. Use a thin, sharp knife with a long blade and make 2-3 deep, regularly spaced slits into each hunk of fish (I made 3-4 slits in the biggest pieces of fish). Insert into each split half a clove of garlic and in another a mint leaf. Heat the extra virgin olive oil in a pan large enough to accommodate the fish in one layer. Sauté the fish, turn once (until it colours), remove and set aside. Sauté the onion in the same pan until it becomes golden and soft. Add the anchovies and stir them around over moderate heat – they will dissolve. Add olives and the seasoning. Add the orange slices (optional). Add the sugar, watch it melt (still over medium heat) then add the vinegar and evaporate it. Return the tuna to the pan it and cook gently until it is cooked to your liking – this will depend on the size of your fish and how you prefer to eat it. For my tastes I return the tuna to the sauce mainly to reheat it as I do enjoy my tuna fairly underdone (this is in comparison to how Italians generally eat tuna).
I have also cooked the slice of tuna whole.