Do you ever make a list of ingredients only to realise you’ve forgotten to take it with you to the shops. Did exactly that yesterday. When I arrived home I glanced at the list and kind of went pheeew, remembered them all. Only to realise later on that I’d completely forgotten to add long grain rice and garden peas to the list, as I always have rice and peas with this dish. Anyway, there are several ingredients I’m no longer able to buy for this recipe I developed about 9 years ago. Firstly, this Tuna and Bacon Med Type Stew was always cooked with a fresh bay leaf (never new growth, last years or older), rinsed and cut in half. I don’t have the luxury of stepping out into a rather large and beautiful garden any more and grabbing fresh herbs. Dried will have to do. The only main ingredient I can’t buy here is a Turkish Carliston pepper (çarliston pepper, a sweet Anaheim type). They’re usually available at Turkish stores in the UK and, if you can find them, they really are delicious in this recipe. They’re normally about 15cm or 6 ins in length with a thinner shell than green peppers/capsicum and with a milder flavour. They’re similar to the long red peppers that are so easily bought here. Yet, I don’t know if they’re the same type. Carliston doesn’t seem to be the same as either Banana or Charleston, the latter is the literal translation from Turkish to English.
Have just lost an entire paragraph – darn! What was I blathering on about. Oh yes, more ingredients I can’t get my hands on – this is turning into a car crash of a recipe. Yet, mine tasted really good. Turkish red pepper flakes is another thing I can’t buy outside of London. I used to cook with it for almost every soup and savoury. Instead I’m using 2 green jalapeño chillies. Another ingredient I used to have when I made this almost every week during summer was dried basil, surprisingly as I don’t really like it. Here I’m using fresh. What bothered me earlier was when I tried using my electric grill/broiler to blacken the green pepper. I just love its flavour when it’s cooked that way. On gas it’s easy as all I used to do was to sit it on the ring over very low heat and allow to blacken that part of it, shift it and eventually get all of it blackened. When cool all of the charred skin was removed. Earlier today all my grill did was to partially cook it and blister the skin slightly – major disappointment.
Tuna and Bacon Med Type Stew, with peppers (capsicums) and herbs
- rapeseed or olive oil
- about 200g (7.05 oz) x onions, peeled and chopped
- 2 – 4 x medium garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
- 1 x fresh bay leaf, washed and cut in half OR 2 x dried bay leaves, ripped
- 1 x 170g or 120g drained weight (5.99 or 4.23 oz drained) can tuna chunks, well drained
- 1 x lemon, freshly squeezed and poured through a fine sieve if necessary to collect any pulp, pith or seeds
- 1 x level OR heaped teaspoon dried oregano
- 2 x tomatoes, washed and sliced in half
- 2 x rashers of smoked bacon per person
- 1/2 – 1 x Carliston pepper, washed, de-seeded and sliced into rings OR 1 x pale green paprika pepper, washed, de-seeded and either sliced or cut into chunks
- 1/2 x teaspoon red pepper flakes OR 1 green Kenyan chilli, washed and kept whole
- 1 x green pepper/capsicum, washed and kept whole
- 1 x 400g or 240g (14.10 or 8.46 oz drained) drained weight can plum tomatoes, any skin and green bits removed and discarded, the tomatoes mashed
- 1/2 x teaspoon dried basil, less to personal taste OR about 5 fresh leaves per person, rinsed and torn
- 4 – 6 x pitted black olives per person, rinsed and either sliced into rings or quarters
Measurements within brackets above are approximate only.
- Put a large heavy-based saucepan on electric heat No 3 (out of 6). Allow the pan to heat up before adding a good glug of oil and the onions. Cook, stirring through often, until pale golden in colour. Reduce heat to No 2, spread the onions to the sides, pour in another glug of oil and add the garlic and the chilli if using. Otherwise sprinkle over the red pepper flakes. Add the bay leaves at this stage, too. Cook the garlic for several minutes, reducing the heat to No 1 if necessary. Drain the tuna well, spread the onion mixture to the sides again and add the tuna. Pour over the lemon juice through a fine sieve if necessary. Sprinkle over the oregano and continue to cook over low heat to help dry out the tuna.
- In the meantime put a heavy-based pan on heat No 2. Prep the tomatoes, add a glug of oil and place the tomato halves inside. Cover with a lid and allow at least 20 minutes for them to soften and caramelise. When ready rub them through a fine wire metal sieve with the back of a wooden spoon into the onion mixture.
- Pan-fry or grill/broil the bacon until the fat is nicely golden. Set aside and allow to cool. If pan-frying the bacon add the Carliston pepper halfway through. When both are nicely cooked transfer them using a slotted spoon to a bowl and set aside. Add the cooked Carliston pepper to the onion mixture.When bacon is cool enough break into bite-sized pieces. Remove any fat that isn’t nicely golden and discard. It’ll turn soggy otherwise. Add them to the onion mixture, too.
- Blacken the green pepper/capsicum over a low heat gas flame until black all over. Carefully remove and allow to cool. Some people put them in a bag as that loosens the skin. When cool enough to handle peel off all of the blackened skin and discard. Remove the top and any seeds. Remove their membrane and discard those and the seeds. Slice lengthways then slice crossways into small chunks and add to the onion mixture. If using electric, like me, put into a heavy-based saucepan with a lid on heat No 2, for a good 15 – 20 minutes. Turn them over occasionally, and after that time remove the lid. Continue to cook until the pepper almost caves in on itself. Peel off as much blistered skin as possible and follow the instructions above.
- Add the prepared mashed tomatoes to the onion mixture and stir through. Up the heat to No 4. Sprinkle over the dried basil if using. Less is best with dried basil as the taste can be woody. Otherwise add the fresh basil toward end of cooking time. Allow about 10 minutes to help thicken the sauce. Reduce heat to No 2 until ready to serve.
- Scatter over the black olives just before serving.
- Serve with boiled long grain rice and peas.
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