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Monday, June 3, 2013

A Special Tuna Salad and Moroccan Market Food

A Special Tuna Salad and Moroccan Market Food
by Victoria Challancin 

Have you ever invited anyone over for tuna salad?  Probably not. Neither had I until I included this unusual tuna dish as a part of a recent dinner party featuring Moroccan Salads. This version, which is a far cry from the tuna salad of my Mom (sweet pickle, celery, mayo, and hard-cooked eggs) and includes such North African spices as caraway and coriander seeds heated in oil and poured over the salad.  And although I dabble with my tuna salads often (a current favorite includes olives, vinegar, mustard, and chile), this is by far the most interesting cold tuna dish I have ever made.  And as a plus--everyone at the dinner loved it!

I found this recipe for a Tunisian Tuna Salad on the excellent Australian Women's Weekly site.  When I visit the Middle East, I always make it a point to pick up several of the AWW's wonderful cookbooks.  Paperback and portable, they are always packed with usable, original recipes.  In fact, I think this is exactly how my nephew, who lives in Abu Dhabi, learned to cook--by just following AWW's lead!

To make the harissa-inspired dressing, caraway and coriander seeds are heated in a garlicky olive oil, then mixed with lemon juice and red wine vinegar and poured, while still warm, over the tuna salad.  The flavors are subtle enough so that diners recognize that the flavors are exotic, but not exactly what they are.  Truly, this dressing is a keeper--you can be sure I will use it again, probably over roasted vegetables or grilled seafood.  AWW suggests you eat it with a fresh, crunchy bread or rolled up in pitta or lavash.  They also suggest making it with fresh char-grilled tuna, which would be so yummy that I want to go on a search for some top-grade tuna steaks right now!

If you want to read more about what I have say about harissa, the spicy red-pepper paste beloved in North Africa, I wrote about it here and here.

Recipe:  North African Tuna Salad with Harissa-Style Dressing

Cook's Notes:  I omitted the anchovies in this recipe as I thought it would be fishy enough without them.  The original recipe doesn't state whether to use tuna in water or oil; I opted for tuna packed in water because it is what I had on hand, but you can bet in North Africa oil-packed tuna would be the choice.  Because I had other spicy dishes, I chose to omit the red chiles here, but they would be wonderful if included.  Also, I used two cans of tuna and just made a bit more dressing--for this reason I used more mint, eggs, and olives than in the original recipe.  Because I only have larger capers, not baby ones, I chopped them.  The eggs can be quartered and put on top as I did, or chopped and included in the salad itself.

For the salad:
2 hard-boiled eggs, chopped or in quarters
1 medium green bell pepper, chopped finely (200g)
2 medium tomatoes, seeded, chopped finely (380g)
4 green onions, finely chopped
2 large canned anchovy fillets, drained, chopped finely ( I omitted the anchovies)
10 pitted green olives, roughly chopped 
2 red Thai chiles, seeded, chopped finely 
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh mint leaves (I doubled the amount--or more)
1 185g can tuna, drained, flaked 
1 tablespoon baby capers, drained

Harissa style dressing:
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 clove garlic clove, crushed or minced
1 heaping teaspoon coriander seeds, lightly crushed in a mortar
1 heaping teaspoon caraway seeds, lightly bruised in a mortar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

To make the dressing:  Heat the oil in a small pan, add garlic and seeds; cook, stirring, until fragrant.  Stir in juice and vinegar.

Combine ingredients in a medium bowl, including the eggs, unless placing them on top; drizzle dressing over salad, toss gently to combine.

The tuna salad after being tossed--can you see the tiny seeds?

Moroccan Market Foods
These photos are from my recent trip to Morocco.  For more information about the groups I lead there each year or to be placed on my mailing list, contact me at

 Fresh goat's cheese, just like the one Anthony Bourdain overpaid for here  ;-)

 Dried figs on a string--for meat tagines

 Don't get me started on the glory of Moroccan olives and olive oil--I wrote a five-part series on the olive harvest with tons of photos, starting here

 Nopal cactus fruits (called tuna in Spanish), called "Berber Figs" in Morocco because they are cheaper than regular figs

 A fruit and nut stand in Marrakech, where we stock up before heading out on the road 

A Moroccan spice store--see which one is the most used!

 Pickled vegetables--with harissa

 Even the modern grocery stores, where we head to buy excellent Moroccan wines and other goodies, again before heading out on the road, have beautiful spice displays

Preserved lemons, chiles, olives, and more

Parting Shot:
One of many from my collection of chicken-store signs

©Victoria Challancin.  All Rights Reserved.

Like life and love, recipes are meant to be shared, but please ask permission before using photos or text.  Thanks!


Joan Nova said...

Yeah, it's not like anyone's mama's tuna fish salad. Lots of bold flavors, worthy of company.

Valerie Harrison (bellini) said...

I have a special jar of tuna I brought from Italy, just waiting fot that special dish. Too bad I only have 1 jar. This is definitely a must try as well as a visit to all those gorgeous food and spice stands. Look at all the variety of olives! said...

Very flavorful and as usual the colors. I do love the chicken signs...jajaja!

Eha said...

Wow! Make a lot of tuna salads actually and have just checked: my pantry has every single ingredient! So guess what is for lunch tomorrow :) ! This IS different and I love the recipe ahead of time! I don't have time to read women's magazines usually, but our Weekly is kind'of an exception and, yes, these days with our rampant multiculturalism and ever growing interest in food the recipe pages have grown quite interesting! Love the market photos: am peagreen with envy seeing the big piles of spices: small packet sachets often cost an arm and a leg here :( ! The 'emptiest' container: turmeric?

Hotly Spiced said...

I think tuna and pickles go together very well. I didn't know you could buy AWW cooking magazines in the Middle East. I love the look of all the spices xx

My Kitchen Stories said...

I was having a giggle because you said every time you go to the middle east you buy AWW. One of us ( your bloggin' friends from OZ ) could send you one anytime. Apart from that I've a tuna salad. Also love your photos looks like you have a fabulous time

Karen (Back Road Journal) said...

So true...this is not my mother's tuna salad either. This sounds delicious and different.

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

This looks so much better than regular tuna salad! And I love those spice piles at markets-I wonder how they do them! :)

Nancy said...

You can invite me over for this tuna salad anytime, Victoria. I love the ingredients and it's so different than I make mine, not with pickles though -blah!

Your photos are so beautiful and love all the colours of Morocco. I would go crazy with all the spices, nuts and dried fruits. Thanks for sharing!:)

Nancy said...

You can invite me over for this tuna salad anytime, Victoria. I love the ingredients and it's so different than I make mine, not with pickles though -blah!

Your photos are so beautiful and love all the colours of Morocco. I would go crazy with all the spices, nuts and dried fruits. Thanks for sharing!:)

Lawn Care Altamonte Springs said...

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