JOANNA'S FOOD: family cooking, from scratch, every day

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

A culinary disaster

Well, I was reading the Sunday papers, and somebody mentioned moules and chips, that delicious staple of Brussels. So I thought I'd cook it up (McCain's oven chips are less than 5% fat, and that's the "official" definition of a low-fat food, although who decides these things I don't know).

Next day, I'm preparing the mussels I bought that morning in the supermarket. Lucius comes in and, sounding very disappointed, says, "oh, I don't really like mussels." Heartlessly, I tell him he can't have his favourite every day. (Do you know that wonderful New Yorker cartoon of a husband saying to his wife, "Not my favourite again"?) But pretty soon I find I've thrown away more mussels than I've put in the pan, and I begin to think that I don't want to eat the remaining few on the grounds that they are going off faster than I can cook them. So I chuck the lot, resolving to go and complain in the supermarket (which prides itself on its fish, and should know better). It is at this point that I realise there's nothing else fresh to eat.

I hunt through the larder (rather a grand word for a few cool shelves in the corridor outside the kitchen), and all I can find is a couple of tins of tunafish. The problem is that these days chefs and cookery writers have given up tinned fish in favour of fresh (mostly a good thing, but you can't use fresh for tuna bake - you know, tuna, tinned sweetcorn, mushroom soup, crisps on top, children's favourite fish dish). So I blew the dust off a wonderful book I don't use often enough, an old-fashioned book full of good things, Suppers by Claire Macdonald of Macdonald. Lady Macdonald and her husband used to run (perhaps they still do, but I haven't seen their advertisements in The Spectator for years) a hotel in Skye called Kinloch Lodge. I've never stayed there, but rather wish I had, because Lady Macdonald's books are full of unpretentious, tasty, welcoming food.

So, instead of moules and chips, we had Lady Macdonald's devilled tunafish (although I didn't do it exactly as I was told). I made tons of it, and used the leftovers in sandwiches, a distinct improvement on tuna mayonnaise, which is generally rather bland, and obviously out of the question for us to eat. You'll need tins of tunafish, an onion, milk, a lemon, and the rest you'll probably have anyway.

Devilled tunafish

Slowly cook a chopped onion in a little oil. When it's soft, add a little flour and make a white sauce with a pint of skimmed milk. When the sauce is cooked through, take it off the heat and add 2 tbsp each of lemon juice, dry sherry and Worcester sauce, then 3 tbsp tomato ketchup. Stir in the tunafish from three tins and warm through.

Meanwhile, whizz a couple of slices of bread in the processor with a handful of parsley and an anchovy fillet. Then fry this mix in a little olive oil until it's crisp and golden. Serve together.

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