PRESERVED TUNA BELLY IS REMARKABLY POPULAR ACROSS SPAIN. AGAIN, THE VERY BEST PART OF THE CATCH — THE RICH, FAT BELLY FLESH — IS COOKED IN VERY, VERY SALTY WATER, PLACED IN OIL AND THEN PASTEURISED. IT IS DELICIOUS BUT HIGHLY EXPENSIVE. FRESH TUNA BELLY, OR VENTRESCA AS IT IS KNOWN IN SPAIN, CAN BE VERY DIFFICULT TO COME BY, SO I USE A LARGE FILLET AND TRIM AWAY THE DARK BLOODLINES. THIS RECIPE WAS FIRST TOLD TO ME BY A WINEMAKER IN THE BASQUE COUNTRY WHO WAS SERVING HIS HOME-MADE PRESERVED TUNA WITH HIS SUPER-FRESH, WONDERFULLY ACIDIC TXACOLI WHITE WINE. THE TUNA WAS INCREDIBLY RICH AND MOUTH-FILLING AND PERFECTLY SALTY.
Wash and sterilise two
Using a sharp knife, remove the skin, bloodlines and any bone or tough flesh from the tuna. Cut the tuna into pieces a few centimetres (about an inch) shorter than the jars. Place a plate on the bottom of a large saucepan and lay the tuna on the plate. Pour the salt over and cover with water. Bring to the boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to very low, cover and allow to barely simmer for 2 hours. Carefully remove the tuna and cool.
Place the tuna upright in the jars, cover with the olive oil and seal.
Place an old plate on the bottom of a large heavy-based saucepan so the jars are not in direct contact with the base of the pan. Place the jars on the plate and transfer to the stovetop. Fill with enough cold water to cover the jars and turn the heat to high. When the temperature reaches 80°C (175°F), reduce the heat and adjust it to keep the temperature at roughly 80°C (175°F) for 30 minutes.
Carefully remove the jars from the water and allow to cool. Store in a cool, dry place for up to 6 months. Once opened, the tuna will keep, refrigerated, for 2–3 days.
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