Tuna polpette and Cloudwater sour

Good tuna (that you can enjoy and sleep well at night having eaten) is a rare thing. Thankfully, in the last 2-3 years the range of good, MSC certified tinned and jarred tuna is on the up. I was even amazed to find a serviceable option amongst Morrison’s ‘the best’ range recently.

I discovered albacore steaks in olive oil on Spanish holidays then in Italian delis back in the UK several summers ago. The difference to your bog standard matt-grey tinned fare is striking. Normally I save this ingredient to serve straight from the jar with fresh salad ingredients from the yard like beetroot, dwarf beans and pea shoots.

Today we’re slightly too early for these sunshine crops and so, something different…

Every year around May I endure the annual tradition of submitting company accounts. This ritual not only reminds me of how little there is to be made project managing contemporary art festivals but also requires me to search for a reliable (but tasty) lunch venue to which I can invite my father-in-law for ‘accountants’ lunch to thank him for squaring up and making legible my cash sheet and annual return. About three years ago, at said, lunch, I first encountered Polpette di Tonno and have been tweaking a recipe for this tasty snack ever since. Here’s where I’ve gotten to three years on.

DSC_1152Ingredients (makes 12 polpette)

  • 200g msc certified albarore tuna in olive oil (drained, oil reserved)
  • 175g ricotta
  • 1tbsp fresh breadcrumbs
  • zest 1 lemon
  • 1 tbsp oregano
  • 1 tbsp minced shallot, sweated
  • 1 tsp garlic, creamed to a paste
  • 1/2 tsp dried chilli flakes
  • 1 tsp capers, rinsed and chopped
  • sea salt and pepper

for coating 

  • tbsp plain flour
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 6tbsp dried breadcrumbs

for the spiced tuna mayo

  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tbsp creme fraiche
  • 1 heaped tsp harissa paste
  • Oil from the tuna jar
  • Extra virgin olive oil

You can of course enjoy these polpette on their own along with the mayo but if your’e looking for an unusual but perfectly matched drink to wash them down, I would recommend Cloudwater’s fantastic Seville Orange Sour (or similar).


for the mayo

  1.  Place the egg yolk, creme fraiche and harissa in a food processor and pulse until smooth.
  2. Whilst blending at a medium speed, gently add some olive oil. Once you’re confident it is beginning to emulsify add the oil from the tuna jar in a very gentle stream.
  3. Switch back to regular oil once the tuna oil is exhausted until you have your desired consistency. Chill in the fridge until needed. DSC_1143

for the polpette

  1. Combine all the ingredients for the polpette in a bowl and carefully mix with a fork. Don’t do this with a machine as the tuna will become tough. Taste and season and adjust the amount of ricotta and breadcrumbs until the mixture will roll into balls but isn’t too sticky to the touch.
  2. Roll into balls the size of a large marble, dust in flour, dip in egg and then roll well in breadcrumbs. Set aside to chill.
  3. Heat oil in a pan or fryer until a steady 170°c. Fry until golden and then drain on kitchen towelling. Serve with the mayo, chopped flat leaf parsley, good extra virgin oil and a refreshing beverage of your choice. DSC_1159


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