Mon 04 Mar 2013

Food Without Fuss: Or With, As The Case May Be


These recipes, while hopefully of use and interest to all, were written with the Easter 2013 selections of The Society’s Wine Without Fuss subscription scheme particularly in mind. Voted Best Wine Club by Which? Magazine, Wine Without Fuss offers regular selections of delicious wines with the minimum of fuss. Why not join the growing band of members who let their Society take the strain, and are regularly glad they do?

Janet Wynne Evans

A Sicilian tendency in this Easter’s Wine Without Fuss selection has made me think of tuna, and a terrific restaurant outside Palermo.

We were on the way home after a spontaneous trip, brought on by a “flight sale”. The fares were a notional 99p each, which, even after taxes and sundry o’Learies, came to less than £45, there and back. We quickly made up for that by splurging on a smart hired Alfa, and, to match, a new set of Pinninfarina-designed luggage (Gad, those wheels! that acceleration!). Facing a massive weight surcharge on the return flight, we thought we might as well go for broke.

Nino Graziano’s restaurant was rather tucked away and undeservedly quiet, given the Michelin star it boasted, but at least the reception desk was groaning under the statutory twenty copies of Chef’s Tome. I normally snub this kind of merchandising on principle, but let’s just say that after lunch here, I not only snapped one up but, flushed with nero d’avola, invited Nino himself to sign it. His simple message “Saluti gastronomici” said it all.

The unbelievable intensity and modern-art presentation of Nino’s stand-out fish course demand time and effort – making just the right tomato sauce, home drying your own olives to crush into your olio nero and blanching a leek to make edible ribbons. I include his instructions for these because they not only make enjoyable reading with your feet up, but worth doing if time permits. If not, a quick raid on larder or freezer will yield better than adequate results. The one thing not to stint on is the quality of the olive oil.

Keep a tight rein on the chilli powder and you can enjoy this with any number of characterful whites or lightish fruity reds. Both the Grillo in the white and mixed Everyday cases and the Frappato in the red and mixed Premium Selection will be delicious, as will the Spring Vouvray on offer in French Classics.


Loosely translated from Cucina di Sicilia by Nino Graziano (Biblioteca Culinaria srl, 2003)
Serves 4

350g tuna loin cut into 12 thin slices, ideally by your friendly local fishmonger
12 mint leaves, washed and dried
4 small ripe tomatoes, diced
Half a red onion, finely diced
Extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper
150ml tomato sauce (see below)
20g sesame seeds
20l white wine vinegar
25g sugar
a careful pinch of cayenne pepper or powdered chilli
half a carrot, very finely diced
half a courgette, very finely diced
salt and pepper

To serve (these final flourishes can be prepared well in advance. The leek ribbons and skewers are optional, but make dinner a joy to behold, as you can see from the above photograph.)
1 medium courgette, diced
100g cooked cannellini beans
50g baby broad beans, shelled
Blanched leek ribbons (see below)
Black olive oil (see below)
Mint oil (see below)
12 wooden skewers
Whole salt

First prepare the piquant sauce. Combine the tomato sauce with the sesame, vinegar, sugar, cayenne, carrot and courgette in a bowl. Check the seasoning and refrigerate for an hour to let the flavours infuse.

Place the tuna slices, a few at a time, between two sheets of cling-film on a large, sturdy and stable wooden board. With a meat hammer or end of rolling pin, bash them until they are quite thin and malleable. Top each with a mint leaf, and some of the diced tomatoes and onions. Season well and roll tightly into a sausage shape.

In a large pan, heat some oil and toss the courgette and beans for a minute or so. Season and keep warm. Add more oil and over a brisk heat, cook the tuna roll for 1-2 minutes on all sides. Carefully lift them out of the pan and put three on each of four warmed plates with some of the beans and courgettes in the middle. Now, if you want to, spear each roll with a long wooden skewer and bring the tops together to form a kind of tripod on each plate. Secure each with a leek ribbon, tied in a double knot. Drizzle some of the black and green oils around the plate, and stud with a few salt crystals. Hand round the piquant sauce separately.


Salsa di pomodoro (Nino’s tomato sauce)
1kg fresh tomatoes
2 tbs extra virgin olive oil
1 red onion, diced
1 clove of garlic
a walnut-sized knob of butter
a pinch of sugar
bayleaf, parsley, rosemary, sage and time
salt and pepper

Peel the tomatoes. The easiest way to do that is to bring a large pan of water to the boil while you cut a cross in the bottom of each tomato with the point of a sharp knife. Once the water comes to the boil, take it off the heat and lower the tomatoes into the pan. Give them a scant minute, then lift them out with a slotted spoon and pull away the peel, which should have curled up obligingly around the cross. Chop them roughly. There is no need to deseed them.

Heat a tablespoon of the olive oil and let the onions and garlic take on some colour. Add the tomatoes with the sugar and season well. Simmer on a medium heat for 45m. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a small pan, add the remaining oil and add the herbs. Let them infuse well, then strain through a fine sieve into the sauce at the end of the cooking time.
Quick cheat: add finely-chopped fresh herbs to a good brand of prepared tomato sauce.

Leek “ribbons”
Most leek recipes call for the white part only, but here’s a speaking part for the green end. Select a long, handsome leek, and cut in half lengthwise. Reserve one half for another use. From the other, cut long ribbons, about a centimetre wide. They should be long enough to be tied in a double knot. You only need four, but a few spares in case of accidents is a good idea. Wash thoroughly to remove any grit and blanch the strips in boiling water for a minute or so until they are soft but have not lost their tensile strength. Refresh under the cold tap and dry on kitchen paper.
Quick cheat: long, sturdy chives will do the job without the blanching. Knot them twice, as tightly as you can without breaking them, to stop them springing free.

Olio Nero (Black Olive Oil)
100g black olives
100ml extra-virgin olive oil

Preheat the oven to 80?C/Gas ½-1. Put in the olives and dry for 4 hours.
Put into a blender with the oil and combine.
Quick cheat: I have successfully used semi-dried vacuum-packed black Olives du Marché

Olio alla Menta (Mint Oil)
200ml extra-virgin olive oil
A small bunch of fresh mint, washed and thoroughly dried

Process the oil and the mint and strain through a fine sieve, pushing as much flavour through as you can. The oil should be a clear, bright green. You can do this with basil too.
Quick cheat: Not a commercially flavoured oil, which will have neither the punch nor the colour. Use a top-quality plain oil and shred the mint into it.

Janet Wynne Evans
Specialist Wine Manager

Photograph reproduced from Cucina di Sicilia by Nino Graziano © Biblioteca Culinaria srl, 2003

Categories : Wine Without Fuss


  1. Anonymous says:

    Great recipes, but can we please occasionally have something vegetarian? Thank you.

    • Janet Wynne Evans says:

      I like to think that the balance of recipes I share with members reflects the fact that I often enjoy meat and fish-free meals, even if the sequence in which they sometimes appear makes me look like a rabid carnivore. Quite a few of them are now assembled in our new-look website on where I hope some ideas will suggest themselves. I can also promise a fantastic truffled macaroni cheese recipe for the Wine Without Fuss blog recipe later in the year, unless the continuing cold snap persuades me to bring it forward!

  2. R Duncan says:

    Just substitute nuts for tuna!

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