Tuna is definitely one of my favourite dishes on earth. Spain has the savoir faire attitude to the art of cooking this fish. From those days when Phoenician lived in the southernmost part of Spain to these days when sailors in la Almadraba still implement the traditional techniques when catching these huge fish, Spain has been, over the years, one of the countries with a master tuna cuisine. Whatever the region we visit, we always get surprised about the variety of dishes that tuna can be suitable for. We Spaniards have known for ages that it is possible to prepare recipes with all parts of the pigs and the truth is that nowadays, we don’t think exclusively about tuna fillets when talking about the possibilities of this fish. For instance, some restaurants like El Campero in Barbate (Cádiz) strongly believe in new and special dishes such as sashimi de ventresca or ensalada de lomo en Tataki con salmorejo - some examples on how the traditional Spanish kitchen merges with international recipes.
Probably because I´m from Galicia, a little corner of what they call the “Green Spain” and where the tuna industry is probably the biggest in the region, I do love tuna. As I grew up around empanadas de bonito and tuna cans, I admit that I‘ve developed a sort of unconditional love for this fish-I guess it´s an art form for us. After travelling around Spain, I discovered little gastronomic treasures whose main character is the atún. These are my three favourite tuna dishes.
País Vasco and Navarra: Marmitako
Marmitako means “pot” or “casserole” in Basque. These people know how to cook fresh bonito by stewing the potatoes and delicious green peppers with Pimentón de la Vera (Spanish paprika), which gives the whole casserole a delicious taste. As with many things in the Basque cuisine, it comes from a pot and that’s why this dish goes by that name- originally it was cooked on fishing boats. The best time of the year for tasting it? Summertime is probably the best moment, as the arrantzales (fishermen) catch them during this season. And no, you don’t have to be Basque in order to prepare this recipe…
Andalucía: Tataki de atún con Salmorejo
This is one of the new recipes that Spanish chefs have innovated over the last few years. The Japanese cuisine meets the traditional Spanish gastronomy by coming up with a fresh and delicious dish. Tataki de atún con Salmorejo is a tasty and healthy way of eating tuna. First of all, Tataki means the way of preparing the meat -in this case, the tuna fillets- and it means into pieces. Salmorejo comes later on. People from Andalucía love this summery and cold “soup”. This time we forget the normal little slices of Serrano ham and egg and instead we combine the Salmorejo- it must be in the middle of the plate- with the tuna, which won´t be dry anymore!
Galicia: Empanada de atún
It tastes like heaven and it´s one of the most popular starters in the Galicia region. Empanada de atún is one of those dishes that you can always find in Galician celebrations and big events. Where there is empanada, there´s happiness. This kind of “tuna pastry” has a long history in the Northwest of Spain and it´s seen as a welcoming dish. It´s difficult to find a day on the calendar that Galicians don´t celebrate…Empanada day takes place on different dates according to the large variety of towns. My choice: A Festa da Empanada in Allariz (Galicia) on the 17th and 18th of August.
Whoever visits Spain will easily find out that its cuisine never ends. Atún is served in every corner of the country but of course, the Spanish capital is the best place to taste specialities from all over the Iberian country. From Barbate to Bilbao there will always be a nice recipe to try.
Marta López is a Galician writer based in London. She loves quality food, Spanish wine and travelling. She is currently working on her first novel and also writes for the Expedia.co.uk blog.