Tuna marmitako: the one-pot born in the Basque harbours
Kaixo eta ongi etorri!
I am greeting you in Basque language or Euskera because the recipe I am showcasing today is original from that northern region of Spain. Euskera is the native language of the Basque Country (or Euskadi if you prefer) and is also spoken in neighbouring Navarra and the French Basque country, which is known as Iparralde. What makes it special is that its origin remains a mystery yet today as it is proved it has no connections whatsoever with Latin. In fact, there are no similarities at all with the other Spanish languages like Catalan or Galego-or Spanish itself! Many scholars have theories about it, but nobody has been able to say a solid one yet. Will this ever happen?
I have never been to Euskadi, but I know many facts about the region besides the particularity of its language. It is predominately industrial and maritime, although its countryside is remarkable too. The weather doesn’t differs too much from that of England. The beach front of San Sebastian (Donostia in Euskera) is one of the nicest in the world. And it is home of football side Athletic Club de Bilbao, which is famous for its unique philosophy of only playing with Basque players. In over 120 years of history, they have been a successful squad and challenged against the mixed-nationalities teams. But most importantly: they have never played in Second Division. This is the real achievement of this club that my dad and my uncle support!
And what about food? Euskadi is definitively a go-to place. From the sophistication of theirpintxos to more traditional fish and meat dishes, you will always ask for more. In this second group we can fit Tuna marmitako, a true house staple that best represents the Basque flair. It originated in the harbours as a fishermen meal and rapidly gained a place in domestic kitchens. It just requires potatoes, fish and and a little bit of time to cook a stew fully loaded of flavours. And since the British summer seems to be almost gone, it has become appropriate to eat.
As expected, there are many different recipes, but I have found Eva Arguiñano’s as the most sensible to do for two reasons. First, because she uses ingredients that I can find nearby. And second, because she claims to be cooking the original one. Considering her reputation, I felt I must follow her and delight you. Eating it in the Basque Country? Someday, no rush.
INGREDIENTS (SERVES 2)
Tuna steaks (2)
Green pepper (1)
Garlic cloves (2)
Tomatoes (1 large)
Fish stock – It’s ok if it comes from a cube
DIRECTIONS FOR COOKING
The first step is cooking the sofrito. Then, chop the pepper, the onion and the garlic clove and simmer in a pot with olive oil for about 10-15 minutes. They have to be very tender before you move to the next step (putting the lid on is very helpful)
2. Chop the tomato and simmer it along with the rest of the veggies. This time, they will be ready within 5-10 minutes. Once the water is completely evaporated, add a pinch of salt and pepper.
3. Roughly chunk the potatoes and briefly cook them in the sofrito. Stir well so they start absorbing all the flavours.
4. Pour the fish stock up to almost covering the potatoes. Note that it should be already warm. Increase the heat from low to medium and boil for about 30 minutes or until the potatoes are tender. Add salt if needed and gently shake the pot so the ingredients mix between each other. Again, putting the lid on helps a lot.
5. Once the potatoes are cooked, dice the tuna steaks and tip them into the stew. You just need to cook them for two minutes. Chop and add the parsley and, after that, turn the heat off and set the pot aside for five minutes. Now it is ready to serve.