Josh Niland loves fish. You just have to look at the many photos of the pioneering scale-to-tail chef looking lovingly at them to realise he has great respect for creatures of the sea.

His recently released second cookbook, Take One Fish: The New School of Scale-to-Tail Cooking and Eating, which this recipe is from, continues his mission to make us think differently about fish – arguing that there’s too much fish wastage here and overseas because, among other things, we’ve been conditioned to only seek out pretty fish and dump the rest.

The Saint Peter, Fish Butchery and Charcoal Fish chef puts forward a solid case that we should be looking beyond fillets, and has written recipes that help us enjoy seafood in all its guises – this one included.

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“Kofta are traditionally made with ground meat, onion and spices, but I urge you to try them with minced tuna,” he writes in the recipe introduction. “They are so good! I suggest a few dips and a tabbouleh that I like to serve them with, and they are phenomenal hot or cold rolled up in freshly made flatbread, but these accompaniments are by no means essential – the kofta are very much the stars here.”

He says the fish balls freezes well so you can make a big batch and save the rest for a quick meal. “You could also try replacing the tuna with swordfish, marlin, albacore or Spanish mackerel – whatever looks best at the fish market.”

We’ve included his recipe for tabbouleh as Niland says it goes superbly with the kofta. He’s used lovage because it adds an earthy, celery flavour (leftovers can be used with poached eggs and avocado on toast), but just use parsley if you can’t find it.

“Tabbouleh is so much more than a one-dimensional condiment that only appears alongside kofta or similar Middle Eastern dishes. Far from it – this acidic bright and colourful salad has a place at every family barbeque,” he says.

Tuna kofta with barbeque grapes, sour garlic sauce and tabbouleh
Serves 4
Prep time: 35 mins
Cooking time: 20 mins


60ml buttermilk
40g fresh white breadcrumbs
500g yellowfin tuna belly, trimmed
3 tsp garlic, finely grated
3 tsp French shallots, finely diced
3 tsp coriander seeds, freshly ground
2 tsp cumin seeds, freshly ground
2 tsp sumac
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp smoked paprika
¼ tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp sea salt flakes
½ tsp black pepper, freshly cracked
80ml grapeseed oil

Sour garlic sauce
125g natural yoghurt
80ml buttermilk
1 tbsp garlic, minced
2 tsp lemon juice
Sea salt flakes
½ bunch chives, finely sliced

Barbeque grapes
150g large red grapes
Grapeseed oil, for brushing
Sea salt flakes

To serve (optional)
Eggplant and macadamia puree
Flatbreads, such as naan bread
Salad leaves

For the kofta, pour the buttermilk over the breadcrumbs in a large mixing bowl. Leave to soak for 10 minutes until the bread swells and there is no residual liquid left in the bowl. Pass the trimmed tuna through a meat grinder on a coarse setting (or chop into a coarse mince consistency with a sharp knife). Add to the breadcrumb mixture, along with all the remaining kofta ingredients.

Using your hands, mix everything together for about 1 minute, to strengthen the mix slightly (be careful not to work it too far or the kofta will end up being too firm). Divide the mix into 12 even pieces and roll into long sausage shapes. Shape the kofta onto stainless steel skewers and store on a plate, covered, in the fridge until needed.

To make the sour garlic sauce, whisk together all the ingredients in a mixing bowl. Set aside in the fridge.

Either preheat a chargrill pan over a medium to high heat or a charcoal grill with evenly burnt-down embers. Level out the embers so the heat is even.

Brush the kofta with a little grapeseed oil and season with salt flakes, then grill for 2–2½ minutes, turning carefully at 40-second intervals, until cooked through and nicely coloured all over. Transfer the kofta to a large serving platter and set aside to rest.

While the kofta are resting, brush the grapes with a little oil, then grill for 2 minutes or until the skins are charred and blistered and the juices start running from the fruit. Serve with the kofta, sour garlic sauce and your choice of accompaniments.

Lovage tabbouleh (optional)
Serves 6
Prep time: 20 mins

30g fine burghul (bulgur wheat)
400g ripe truss tomatoes, finely diced
6 white salad onions, finely diced
Juice of 2 lemons
½ tsp black pepper, freshly cracked
½ tsp allspice, freshly ground
½ tsp coriander seeds, freshly ground
½ tsp sumac
¼ tsp nutmeg, freshly grated
175g lovage leaves
Generous handful mint leaves
100g flat-leaf (Italian) parsley
Iced water
100ml extra-virgin olive oil
Sea salt flakes

Rinse the burghul in cold water until the water runs clear, then drain well in a sieve and place in a large mixing bowl. Fluff up with a fork.

Using a sharp knife, halve the tomatoes and scoop the seeds and pulp into the bowl with the burghul. Finely dice the tomato flesh and add to the bowl along with the onions. Stir in the juice of 1½ lemons.

Mix together all the ground spices in a small bowl. Treat this as a seasoning for the salad to use at your discretion.

Rinse and refresh the herbs in iced water. Take the lovage, mint and parsley leaves and pile them up together. Using a sharp knife, finely slice them once, then add to the salad bowl. Add the olive oil, season with the mixed spices and salt flakes and toss well. Taste and add more salt, lemon juice or spices if needed.

This is an extract from Take One Fish: The New School of Scale-to-Tail Cooking and Eating, published by Hardie Grant. Buy it here.

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