In Scopello, near Trapani on the west coast of Sicily where we stayed in October, there is the remains of a Tonnara. This was a tuna fishing station which had been in use from the beginning of the 13th century until the 1980’s. These days due to the overfishing of the Tuna worldwide, as well as the overfishing of the Mediterranean sea these Tonnaras, which are dotted all around the coasts of Sicily, now have tourists swimming off the slipways and the buildings are hotels.
Peter Robb, in his book “Midnight in Sicily” writes about the hunting of the Tuna, called Mattanza, which had been a great industry in Sicily, and a ritual of great savagery. The fish were driven into a series of nets, passing one from another, until finally into what was called the chamber of death, where they were brutally set upon by the fishermen armed with spears and harpoons.The fisherman in former times may have been sitting in their boats, behind their oars, in the sun for days waiting for the tuna’s arrival
In a recent article in the F.T. weekend, Rowley Leigh talks about the discovery of freshtuna in Britain, and “the love of cooking it like a fillet steak”.He goes on to say that we “assumed our sicilian friends had got it wrong for the last 2 or 3 millennia” As Sicilians like to cook their tuna with vegetables, in stews and right the way through.
The Spanish, too like well cooked tuna dishes, and often it’s canned.The Spanish have a great “preserves” industry. Their canned tuna is delicious, always in olive oil. The cans are an art form in themselves.
I had every intention of giving a recipe for a Sicilian tuna dish , unfortunately it’s the wrong season here in France for fresh tuna. So I’m going to post a couple of tuna shots from earlier in the year.Both my dishes use the “fillet steak” style. Which I think has its merits.
One for Tuna Niçoise, and the other Sashimi quality tuna I cooked out on Sydney visit early this year.