Tuna, Quinoa, Wild Rocket, Olive and Blackened Tomato Salad

With Chopped Egg and Parsley Dressing

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Before I even begin to give you this recipe I have to deliver a little rant. Please make sure the tuna you use here is from a reliable and reputable source. Tuna is, as environmentalists have said, the rhinoceros of the fish world. By that, they mean the fish is becoming hunted beyond its own ability to reproduce and survive. So, if you can’t tell where the tuna you’re about to buy comes from, then please make this using another species of fish, such as salmon, sea trout, mackerel or grey mullet. Also make sure it’s not been caught in a drag-net, as drag-nets catch not just the tuna they’re supposedly intended for, but also dolphins, sea turtles and all manner of other sea creatures. Ask your fishmonger – they should know.

That little plea over... this salad takes as its spiritual grandmother salade niçoise, using those lovely small black niçoise olives. Quinoa is an ancient Inca grain, full of all the world’s goodness. Almost forgotten until recently, it has begun to appear again in health food shops and on restaurant menus.

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Ingredients

  • 6 tomatoes
  • 4–5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • small handful of basil leaves, torn
  • ¾ cup quinoa grains
  • 4 tuna steaks, each about 180g, skin and bones removed
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 large handfuls of assorted olives
  • 2 large handfuls of wild rocket leaves

For the Chopped Egg and Parsley Dressing

  • 4 eggs
  • small handful of parsley leaves, roughly chopped
  • 2 tablespoon capers
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 tablespoons lemon juice

Method

Cut the tomatoes across into slices about 1 cm thick and brush each with a little of the oil. Heat a heavy pan and, when it’s smoking, add the tomatoes in a single layer and cook over a high heat to blacken a little, around 1½–2 minutes. Using a heatproof spatula, remove the slices to a plate and continue to cook the remaining slices. If any bits stick to the pan, scrape them off and wipe the pan. Once all the tomatoes are cooked, scatter the basil over them and drizzle with a teaspoon of the oil.

Bring 4 cups of water to the boil in a pan. Place the quinoa in a very fine sieve and give it a rinse under warm running water for 30 seconds. Add the quinoa to the boiling water and cook at a rapid boil for 12–15 minutes. It will be cooked when it begins to unwrap – rather like a spiral unfolding. Taste a few of the grains after 10 minutes and, once cooked, drain through a fine sieve, then spread out on a plate to cool down. The quinoa will remain slightly crunchy and nutty, and it’s this texture that makes it so fabulous to use.

Brush the tuna with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, lightly season it and leave it out at room temperature for 10 minutes, covered with cling film.

Make the chopped egg and parsley dressing, place the eggs in a pan of boiling water and boil for 5 minutes, then drain and place in a bowl of iced water to cool them completely. Shell the eggs, then roughly chop or grate them and place in a bowl with the parsley, capers- and the olive oil.

Heat the pan or grill again and, when hot, place the tuna in, or under, it and cook briefly. Tuna is best served rare to medium-rare – any more and it can become dry. However, if you like your fish overcooked and awful then, by all means, cook it so. Just don’t say I told you to. For a steak that’s cm thick, to cook it medium-rare in a hot pan will take about 2 minutes on the first side, then flipped over and cooked for a further minute.

To Serve

Place the olives, rocket and quinoa in a large bowl, lightly season, add the remaining olive oil and gently mix. Lay the tomato slices on 4 plates and divide the rocket salad on top of that, then top with a piece of grilled tuna. Mix the lemon juice into the egg dressing and spoon this over as you serve it.