Any Saint who has ventured to the UK will know that buying food over there is a comparatively easy process owing to the high frequency of Tesco stores and other major supermarkets. You just roll up in your car, park in their three hours for free car park and then fill your trolley with the multitude of food items on offer, many of which are “three for two” or “50% off”. Your trolley will probably contain (as mine usually does) a number of items which were not on the list but had to be bought because they were “on offer”. At home store cupboards are stacked full of food items, possibly some have been in there for years! I know I have a couple of old jars of barbecue sauce I bought thinking I was going to have the family round for a great barbecue and just didn’t get round to it.
In Jamestown, food buying is on a different level, tempered by one major factor and that’s availability. Well I guess the stores are stocked up at the moment as the RMS has just visited so I am yet to experience food shortages as described to me by some of the Saints I have met.
In my humble opinion there are many things that St Helena food shopping beats Tesco on any day. Quality of local ingredients, price of some local ingredients such as Tuna and Steak and finally the sense of community you all have here. When I go to Tesco I probably only speak to the checkout girl. Here, everyone has time for a chat.
The UK Saints must really miss their Tuna. It’s FANTASTIC. I bought a piece on Friday that will do a meal for three for £1.50! It would have cost £8.00 or more in the UK and quality wouldn’t have been anything like here. So as “familiarity breeds contempt” as they say; I am going to focus on Tuna for this week’s recipes and Food Partner so you might try something new with your Tuna next time.
One recipe, the Kedgeree is close to the famous Plo and the other is a take on pepper steak which is one of my favourite dishes when done properly! I thought about including a recipe for one of the most famous tuna recipes of all time, the Salad Nicoise from the south of France but thought most folk will know about tossing a combination of cooked tuna, boiled new potato, beans, tomatoes, olives and hard boiled eggs in olive oil with a few anchovies for luck!
So here are the two Tuna recipes for you to savour.
1 Onion finely chopped
1 Tblsp Butter for frying
1 Tblsp Curry powder
400g Basmati or long grain rice
4 Hard Boiled Eggs peeled and roughly chopped.
100g frozen peas or mixed veg (optional)
300g Tuna cut into cubes
700ml chicken or vegetable stock made with a cube and boiling water
Salt and pepper to taste
2 Tblsp Chopped parsley or similar herb
· Melt the butter in a large pan and tip in the onions and curry powder.
· Cook until onions start to soften.
· Add the rice stirring to prevent it from sticking.
· When all the rice is coated with the butter and curry mix add the hot stock and bring to the boil.
· Add salt and pepper and stir.
· Then cover with a lid and simmer for 10 minutes.
· After 10 minutes add the tuna and optional vegetables and cook for a further 5 minutes.
· Remove from the heat and add the eggs and parsley and stir until well mixed.
Serve in a large bowl or platter and garnish with avocado, tomato, lemon or just more parsley.
Peppered Tuna Steaks with Sweet Potato puree and Caramelised Onion
The sweet potato puree and caramelised onion are worth mastering in their own right as they are very versatile and can be used with numerous other dishes. In fact I cook off six or eight onions at one time and leave the rest in the fridge or freezer.
You will need a spice grinder or pestle and mortar to grind the peppercorns. Buying ready cracked peppercorns will not give you the quality of flavour you can get from freshly cracking them. If you don’t have anything like this you can wrap the peppercorns in a dry cloth and bash them with the side of a saucepan, rolling pin or other heavy object!
Set your oven to 200C
Sweet Potato Puree 2-3 good sized sweet potatoes
30g butter or olive oil
· Bake the potatoes with their skins on until a knife goes into them easily. They can be started off for 5 minutes in a microwave to save energy but remember to prick the skin or they will explode!
· Peel the potatoes and place in a bowl with the butter
· Using a hand blender or whisk, wizz the potato and butter until smooth
· If too dry you can add a small amount of full cream milk. The texture should be like very thick soup or very thin mash potato.
· Taste and season accordingly
· Keep to one side until the tuna is ready
4 medium onions peeled and thinly sliced
60g butter or olive oil
· Melt the butter in a medium heavy saucepan with a lid and add the onion
· Sweat the onion stirring to prevent burning
· When the onion is frying nicely put the lid on and place in the 200C oven.
· Check every 20 minutes and if cooking too fast turn the oven down. If cooking too slow take the lid off and let some moisture out for 15 minutes.
· You can leave the onions cooking on the top of the stove but those of you with Rayburns can make good use of the ovens with this dish.
· The onions are caramelised when they have cooked down to about 25% of their original bulk; they should be golden brown and sweet tasting.
· Keep to one side until the tuna is ready
4 tuna steaks about 100g each cut about 1.5 cm thick
4 Tblsp black peppercorns cracked
4 Tblsp Olive or vegetable oil
· Pour the peppercorns onto a plate and press the tuna steaks onto them until all have been stuck to the fish
· Take a heavy frying pan and place on a medium high heat with the oil in it
· When the oil is hot pan fry the tuna trying to only turn it once, this will keep the peppercorns on the tuna. Do not over heat the pan or you will end up with burnt pepper which is awful
· When the tuna is almost cooked heat up the sweet potato and onions (in the microwave or stove) and place on your serving plates.
· Add the peppered tuna when its cooked to your liking
You can also serve this with some steamed greens or rice. The sweet potato and onion are soft enough to work like a sauce making the dish quite moist.
Tip of the week: To enjoy a peppered tuna steak or for that matter any steak, once you have cracked the peppercorns, sieve them and only use the larger pieces. The pepper “dust” will make the meat much more spicy, use this for general seasoning.
Articles & Recipes
The articles first appeared in the St Helena Herald in the Autumn of 2011.