Tuna au Poivre

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Appears in

Food of the Sun: A Fresh Look at Mediterranean Cooking

Food of the Sun

By Alastair Little and Richard Whittington

Published 1995

  • About

Blue-fin tuna is perhaps the Mediterranean’s finest fish. It breeds off the coast of Turkey and is caught in the Straits of Messina and Gibraltar, but within hours of being docked most of the catch is flown to Tokyo’s central fish market. There it commands astronomic prices as the connoisseur’s tuna for sashimi.

It has always been revered. The Phoenicians followed its migrations and the Romans held it in high esteem, particularly that taken near Byzantium. Tuna preserved in olive oil featured on the Greek menu two thousand years before anybody thought of putting it in tins.

Seared tuna served rare has become a fashionable alternative to fillet steak. If cooked to well done, however, it becomes unpalatably dry and chewy. Buying tuna is not easy as it deteriorates rapidly once butchered. The best place to buy it is from a Japanese fishmonger, who will offer it beautifully prepared in trimmed fillets.

For this recipe you need a 675 g/1 1/2 lb steak, cut from the middle section of the fish. When trimmed it is cut into four portions about 2.5 cm/1 in thick and each weighing 115-140 g/4—5 oz. This is quite large enough, as the flesh is very rich. Cling wrap and use as soon after purchase as possible, refrigerating until a few minutes before you cook it.


  • 4 trimmed tuna steaks from the middle section (as above)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp mignonette (coarse) black pepper
  • 55 g/2 oz butter, chilled
  • 1 lemon
  • small handful of flat-leaf parsley
  • 150 ml/¼ pt chicken stock or beef consommé



Brush the steaks with olive oil. Mix the salt and pepper together and roll the steaks in it to coat.

Preheat a heavy frying pan over a medium heat. Dice the chilled butter. Juice the lemon. Destalk and chop the parsley.


Dry-cook the oiled and seasoned steaks in the pan, giving the first side 2 minutes and the other 1 minute. Transfer to a warmed serving dish and keep warm.

Turn the heat up under the pan and pour in the consommé and lemon juice. Boil rapidly until the liquid become syrupy.

Off the heat, add the parsley and then the butter pieces, swirling in to liaise the sauce.


Pour the sauce over the steaks and serve at once.

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