While it’s common to see meat-based ragus appearing on tables all over the world along with everyone’s favourite, spag bol, I truly hope that inside the next five years, ground tuna trim and scraps will be available to buy over the counter in both markets and stores so this meat-based dish can have a fish makeover.
This doesn’t mean taking more tuna out of the water – it means seeing to it that every last scrap of all the fish that are caught is consumed before the next fish is taken. Don’t limit the potential of this ragu to only pasta – this is also a great addition to mashed potatoes, polenta, rice or loaded into a toasted sandwich.
Josh Niland’s tuna bolognaise
Preparation time: cooling time + 30 minutes
Cooking time: 3 hours
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1.5kg boneless, skinless tuna trim
1kg brown onions, peeled and chopped
750g carrots, peeled and chopped
4 celery stalks, tops removed, chopped
75g garlic cloves, peeled and minced
400ml grapeseed oil
300ml white wine
180g tomato paste (concentrated puree)
2.5kg crushed tomatoes (tinned is fine)
1 fresh bay leaf
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
6 cups water
Salt and pepper, to taste
Place the tuna in the freezer. Once below 0°C, mince through a 2mm grind plate. Keep in the refrigerator until required.
Combine all the chopped vegetables and garlic together in a bowl. In batches, pulse the vegetables together in a food processor to finely chop.
In a large pan set over a high heat, add 150ml of the grapeseed oil and allow it to begin to smoke. Add half the tuna mince to the pan and use a whisk to break it apart so that all the mince separates. (You want to fry the mince quickly with minimal liquid coming off it and maximum colour achieved, so that the mince doesn’t boil in its own juices and dry out.) Remove the mince and set aside in a colander to drain off the oil. Repeat with a further 150ml of grapeseed oil and the remaining mince.
Using the same pan, add the remaining 100ml of grapeseed oil and allow the pan to reach a light haze over a medium heat. Add the vegetables to the hot pan and sweat for approximately 15 minutes, seasoning well with a healthy pinch of salt.
Cook until the vegetables have fully softened, the moisture has left the pan and the oil begins to fry the vegetables again, then add the white wine to deglaze the pan. Use a spoon to lift off the sediment that has stuck to the base of the pan. Add the tomato paste and cook for 3 minutes.
Return the mince to the pan along with the crushed tomatoes, bay leaf, nutmeg and water. Bring to a boil, then turn down to a simmer so it is bubbling gently and cook out for 2½ hours until the tuna is tender.
You are looking for the sauce to have thickened and reduced well, the colour to have deepened to a dark red and the oil to emerge on the surface. The finished bolognaise can be stored in either the refrigerator or freezer.
This is an edited extract from Fish Butchery by Josh Niland, Hardie Grant Books. Available in stores nationally.