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Tuna 101

Fresh tuna is a healthy option for slimmers. Here are some great recipes.

07 Nov 2009

Fresh tuna looks and grills like steak, only much quicker and, some would say, it is much tastier (and of course healthier; tuna is packed with protein, omega 3 fatty acids and a good dose of selenium). Although it's an oily fish, fresh tuna has only one percent fat per body weight, so it's fine for those trying to slim down.

Scroll down for 10 delicious recipes using fresh tuna.


The word 'tuna' dates back to 1880 in print and is said to be a Spanish/American derivation of the English word tunny. Tuna is a member of the mackerel family and has a more robust flavour than whitefish. The enormous Bluefin tuna has dark red flesh and coveted by the Japanese for thei sushi and sashimi. Yellow fin tuna (also known as Ahi) is less expensive than Bluefin and more easily found, though some argue it's flavour is better than that of the Bluefin.

Skipjack tuna, also known as Bonito or by it's Hawaiian name, Aku, is a small, dark-fleshed fish, used for canning and in Japanese cuisine. Finally, Albacore tuna, the only white-fleshed tuna, sometimes marketed as 'chicken of the sea', is preferred above all others for canning. Usage

Like all oily fish, tuna should be eaten as fresh as possible and handled with the utmost care to prevent the delicate meat from bruising and going to a pulp. Because the Bluefin is so large, the quality of meat can vary depending on what part of the fish it comes from. The belly, the oiliest section of the fish, is prized by the Japanese for sashimi while the red meat along the backbone is the leanest. Except for tuna steaks, the skin of this delicious fish is generally removed before cooking.

The best tuna steaks look much like raw beef, but don't go for steaks that have dry or brown spots, a 'rainbow' sheen or don't smell absolutely ocean-fresh. Use fresh tuna on the day that you buy it, but if this isn't possible, pat it dry, wrap securely in plastic wrap or foil and store in the coldest part of your fridge or on a bed of ice, and use within 24 hours.

For centuries tuna has been the main ingredient of a host of different dishes the world over. And it's not only the Japanese that like it raw: the French like to marinate it in a fennel vinaigrette for a couple of hours before tucking in. In fact, the texture of raw tuna, tender with no trace of pulpiness, is perfect for slicing very fresh and marinating in lemon or lime, olive oil and a touch of chilli pepper. It should marinate for 1 to 2 hours. When eaten raw with any manner of flavourings, the dish would often be called tuna tartare, so look out for it on menus.

Tuna's firm, meaty texture makes it an excellent choice for braaing; simply marinate with garlic and soy sauce for an hour and pop on to the grill, literally cooking it one to two minutes a side to prevent the meat from drying out. If it's still a bit raw in the middle, so be it. A word of warning: tough, dry, grilled tuna is no delight, especially considering how tender, moist, and meaty it can be if prepared and grilled right. Because tuna lacks the natural fat that makes grilled salmon so moist and delectable, it's easy to dry out its flesh and intensify its rich flavour to the point of near-overwhelming fishiness. Properly cooked over the coals, tuna will be seared and crusty on the outside and rare and pink on the inside.

Fresh tuna chunks also make wonderful kebabs, and are especially good flavoured with sage. That said, braised tuna is a classic dish, the French would even lard the fish with bacon or anchovies for added depth of flavour. Or they'd make a tuna stew with potatoes, peppers and tomatoes. Yummy.

10 Tuna recipes
1. Tuna pasta

2. Tuna pizza

3. Tuna rice salad

4. Baked potatoes with tomato and tuna filling

5. Fresh tuna wrapped in rice paper 

6. Chargrilled tuna with coriander pesto

7. Greek tuna

8. Tuna frittata

9. Fresh marinated tuna

10. Kiddies tuna pasta


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