This dish became a family favourite as it was the only fish dish my son would eat for years. Despite an affection for fish fingers and fish pie as a toddler, he suddenly went right off fish aged about six but late in his teens could be enticed to eat this spicy tuna dish after discovering in Thailand on his (first) gap year that very fresh tuna didn’t smell or taste fishy. Tuna is also a nice meaty fish with a texture that appeals to the carnivore. I, however, just love fish of all kinds and this dish is still a favourite of mine after all these years.
Tuna is very good for you, a great source of fatty acids, selenium and B vitamins (great for your brain!). Of course today most of us are aware – thanks to the brilliant efforts of Hugh Fearnley-Whiitingstall and Jamie Oliver – that it’s important to buy well-sourced sustainable tuna and I always think with meat and fish that it’s better to have less of something really good than a great hunk of something that is cheap, tasteless and of doubtful provenance. Or even have a meat-free day as Katie Caldesi suggested with the first of her top ten cookery books choice.
This fabulous mango salsa is a wonderful mix of sweet, fragrant mango, hot chilli peppers (always think of the band when I write that!), citrus-y lime and fresh coriander adds a nice woody, cooling note that cuts through the fattiness of the fish. And of course it looks stunning with its sunny, bright colour making this a dish of the senses – great to look at, great to smell, great to taste.
Griddle Tuna with Mango Salsa
Although you can prepare the whole dish at the last minute, I like to marinate the tuna for an hour or two before cooking and the salsa benefits from just an hour’s time for all the flavours to mix – but not longer as you want to keep its nice fresh taste and texture.
For one or two pieces of tuna: pour 3 tablespoons olive oil in shallow dish or plate, squeeze in about a half of lime (roll the lime around before cutting, putting just a little pressure on, as this releases the juice inside and it’s easier to squeeze), add about 1/2 teaspoon dried chilli flakes and some salt and pepper. Mix well with a fork then add the tuna, coat it well with the marinade and leave for an hour or so.
Skin and cut the flesh from a nicely ripe mango and cut into quite small cubes. Add some very finely chopped red onion (about 2 tablespoons), finely chopped fresh red chilli (the ones I bought were quite large so I used about half), a handful of fresh coriander chopped and the juice of half a lime. Add some salt and freshly ground black pepper and pour over some olive oil – about 3 tablespoons. Mix well and have a little taste. Do you need more lime or seasoning? Now put in the fridge for about an hour till ready to cook the tuna.
Heat a griddle (if you don’t have one, use a frying pan) till nice and hot then plop the tuna on. The trick with tuna is to not overcook it or it becomes tough and tasteless; it’s best served pink in the middle. Cooking time obviously depends on the size and thickness of your bit of tuna, but the whole process should only take a couple of minutes.
Serve immediately with the chilled mango salsa. It really is a gorgeous mix of flavours and texture, packed with taste and goodness and looks so good that it will brighten these darkening winter days.
Tip: from years of wearing contact lenses, I learnt it was best to wear some of those thin disposable vinyl gloves you buy for decorating in a supermarket or home store when chopping chillis. It’s hard to wash the oils off – and extremely painful if you rub your eyes or clean your lenses for any reason soon after.