Italian-style tuna and bean stew (with optional mussels)

IMG_2192 croppedStill  no kitchen, but things are moving along. Today, the carpenters magically constructed our built-in seating area, which is exactly as I had pictured it in my head. I showed them a photo of the kind of thing I wanted and they built it to fit the space – the seats even lift up so that we can store our outside cushions beneath them. When it comes to anything that involves a drill or a screwdriver, shall we just say that it’s better if I just stick to making the coffee, and it always amazes me that people can just knock up something like this from some apparently random pieces of wood in the space of a few hours.

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The oven has actually now been fitted (hurrah), but is not yet connected to the electricity supply (you can’t have everything in this world), so I am still ‘in the cupboard’ and gradually working my way through my entire repertoire of one-pan meals.

Yesterday, on a quick foray to Truro, I snaffled some beautiful tuna and a bag of super-fresh mussels, with an idea of making them into a stew that used to be an after-work favourite when we lived in London. The trouble is, that was more than 14 years ago, and the recipe (torn out from Lyndsey Bareham’s ‘after work’ column in the Evening Standard) is neatly tucked inside my faithful copy of Practical Cookery on my bookshelf at home in Turkey, so I have had to work from memory, which is not necessarily to be trusted at present!

The original recipe didn’t involve mussels, so they are definitely an optional extra – I just couldn’t resist them and they do add an amazing flavour to the sauce. However, the dish is just as delicious using only tuna – or you can use any mixture of fish that you fancy – all types of chunky white fish would be good, and squid is a nice addition too. Because there is quite a lot going on in this dish, a little fish goes a long way, which is good news with something as expensive as fresh tuna.

Crusty bread is essential for the important purposes of mopping and slurping.

Italian-style tuna and bean stew (with optional mussels)

Serves 2 – 3

Olive oil
1 onion, diced
1 small fennel bulb, quartered, hard core trimmed away, and sliced
2 cloves garlic, grated or finely chopped
1 fresh chilli or a generous pinch of chilli flakes
2 anchovy fillets (from a tin), finely chopped
100ml white wine
200ml stock (fish, vegetable or chicken – a cube is fine)
200g canned chopped tomatoes or passata (you can freeze the rest)
A couple of handfuls of frozen soya beans (or use a tin of beans, eg cannellini/haricot)
150g new potatoes, cut into bite-sized pieces
A large handful of French beans, cut into bite-sized pieces
150g fresh tuna steak, cut into 2cm chunks
A couple of handfuls of mussels (optional)
Plenty of basil and parsley, finely chopped
Salt and pepper


Heat the oil in a large pan over a medium heat and add the onions and fennel.

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Cook for a few minutes until the vegetables have softened, then stir in the garlic, chilli, anchovies and new potatoes, along with frozen soya beans, if using.

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Allow to cook for a few minutes, stirring frequently, then add the wine, stock and tomatoes (or passata). If you have any parsley stalks, chop them finely and add to the pot.

Once the stew has come to the boil, add the French beans (if you are using canned beans, add them now).

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Allow the vegetables to cook for ten minutes until the potatoes are just tender, then stir in the chunks of tuna. Bring the stew back to the boil, scatter the mussels on top and clamp on the lid.

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Cook for a few minutes more until the tuna is cooked and the mussels have opened (discard any that are still closed). Check for seasoning – you may not need any, as the anchovies, stock and chilli may be sufficient.

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Stir in the basil and most of the parsley, then serve in large bowls with the remaining parsley scattered over the top.

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