Monday, 1 March 2010

Tuna Steaks with a Fresh Cucumber, Radish & Vietnamese-Coriander Pickle

This cooling fresh pickle is just the thing for a hot day, and, blimey, it is hot in Hout Bay at the moment. I spent most of yesterday lying under a damp kikoi whimpering like a kicked dog and glugging bucketsful of iced ginger ale.
Plate by David Walters

Nothing makes me grouchier than being over-hot (except, perhaps, having to stagger into a hot kitchen and slave over a hot stove for hot, bothered children). Not that I did anything of the sort: all I can say is that I am very glad my local Spar bakes wonderful, crispy German rolls, because if they didn't, my family would starve over weekends.

One plant in my herb garden (which is mostly in pots, with a narrow, newly planted bed against a wall; pic below) that cannot tolerate hot dry weather is Vietnamese coriander. It's always the first herb to collapse in the heat, although it perks up quickly if you give it a cool soaking in time.

Have you tasted this lovely herb? Also known as Rau Răm, Vietnamese mint, Cambodian mint and false mint, it has a somewhat papery leaf with a distinctive brown U-shaped marking.  It has a clean, zingy, spicy taste with a definite tingle of citrus. It's very good in salsas, pestos, hot broths and green curries, and particularly tasty with fresh linefish - try placing a few leaves in the cavity of a whole fish, along with a few lemon slices and cloves of garlic, wrapping the fish in foil and baking until done.

I bought my plant a few months back at my local nursery in Johannesburg and, unwilling to leave it behind, shoved it into a pot and sent it to Cape Town in the removal van. It's thrived in its pot, and I've taken off several side shoots to plant in the beds.The cut herb is also available, every now and then, at food markets and specialist greengrocers.

Eat this pickle straight away, or refrigerate: it keeps well for three or four days. If you can't find Vietnamese coriander, use mint.

Tuna Steaks with a Fresh Cucumber, Radish &  Vietnamese Coriander Pickle
4 tuna steaks
1 T (15 ml) sunflower or canola oil
salt and milled black pepper

For the pickle: 
half an English cucumber, washed
6 radishes
1 T (15 ml) salt
4 tsp (20 ml) white granulated sugar
½ cup (125 ml) rice vinegar
4 sprigs Vietnamese coriander

First make the pickle. Using a mandolin, or a very sharp knife, cut the unpeeled cucumber into paper-thin slices. Place in a sieve, sprinkle with a teaspoon of salt, and leave to drain for 10 minutes. Press down lightly to squeeze out excess liquid, and place in a bowl. Finely slice the radishes and add them to the cucumbers along with the remaining salt, the sugar and the vinegar. Finely shred the coriander leaves and stir into the pickle. Place in the fridge while you cook the tuna.

Heat a non-stick frying pan until it is blazing hot. Coat the tuna steaks, top and bottom, with olive oil, and season with salt and plenty of black pepper. Place the tuna in the hot pan and cook for about a minute and a half on one side, or until about 2 mm of flesh on the cooking side turns opaque. Flip over, then cook the remaining side for the same amount of time. (If you prefer your tuna cooked right through, give it longer, but take great care not to overcook it, as it will dry out). Remove from the heat and serve hot with the cucumber pickle.

Serves 4.

My new herb patch, with granadilla (passion fruit) vines against the walls. I am keeping most of the herbs in pots, as the bed against the wall is very narrow and shallow. My husband bought the prayer flags in Kathmandu and at last has found a place to hang them!
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browniegirl said...

This looks totally sublime. I love Vietnamese coriander when I can get it. Must try and find a plant for myself. Your herb garden looks beautiful and the prayer mats so colourful blowing there. xx

Juno said...

Thank you Colleen. I will bring you a little plant in a pot when I see you at the Bloggers' Conference.

Rose&Thorn said...

I have been looking for Vietnamese mint for ages, I asked my local nursery to order me one - that was 6 months ago, they don't seem that keen.
I totally agree, being in the kitchen in this weather is just a bridge too far.

Jeanne @ CookSister! said...

Love your herb garden!! And it's great to see tuna that's properly seared and still pink in the middle. The pickle sounds like something hubby would love...

Lana said...

That tuna looks divine! Also a fan of vietnamese coriander, I had a plant but as you said it doesn't like the heat and it didn't survive the hot December we had!