Nicoise, for anyone who is uncertain, means something coming from Nice, on the south coast of France. In culinary terms it will mean that the dish contains garlic, anchovies and black olives and, probably, tomatoes. One of the most famous dishes from the region that most people will have encountered is a Salade Nicoise, often made with canned tuna, boiled egg, anchovy, capers and black olives.
Here is my take on Tuna Nicoise done as a hot dish with fresh tuna. Living very close to the Mediterranean I am extremely lucky to have à supply of fresh tuna loin. My best advice for cooking the tuna is to treat it like a fillet steak and only cook it to medium at most. Some would say that you only need to lightly sear the outside of the tuna steak.
In order to remain true to the classic I have included boiled eggs, anchovy, capers and green beans. I have also made a tuile, sail shaped, from parmesan cheese – I know, not strictly Nicoise!
If you have a full tuna loin cut steaks about 1-2cm thick. Alternatively, buy them from your usual fishmonger but do not be afraid to ask about the tuna. If you want the best and more sustainable fish ask for Yellowfin or Bigeye and also ask about the traceability to ensure that the fish has come from a sustainable fishery. If you are really pushing the boat out, try some Bluefin but it is going to cost you and is currently on the endangered list.
For the accompaniments, boil some eggs for 7 minutes, peel and slice into quarters. This dish works really well with some boiled new potatoes, lightly buttered and sprinkled with parsley. Cook some French beans to serve on the side. To stay on the Nicoise theme, make some tapenade with black olives, garlic, anchovies and olive oil – tapenade can be strongly flavoured so you don’t need too much.
The sauce I have made is a butter sauce with the addition of a few capers. To make the sauce; put a glass of white wine in a shallow pan with a few drops of wine vinegar, some capers and a pinch of salt. Heat it gently and let the wine reduce by at least half the quantity then add some chilled butter cut into cubes. Add the butter one cube at a time, stir and watch the sauce thicken. To finish off the sauce you could add a splash of double cream.
For the parmesan “sail”. One egg white lightly whisked, a tablespoon of flour and 50g grated parmesan cheese. Spread thinly on parchment paper on a baking sheet, put a cocktail stick in each one (the mast) and cook in the oven until they just start to colour. Allow to cool and lift them off the paper.