This seared tuna starter with pickled red onions, caper berries and honey mustard mayo is inspired by the most amazing appetizer I had in an Italian restaurant in Tivoli in Copenhagen about 15 years ago. Sadly, the restaurant is no more, but all these years I’ve never forgotten that appetizer! For many years I didn’t dare try and copy it for fear of being disappointed, but finally I decided to give it a go, and the result here is so good. I really should have done this years ago!
When I was a kid we had lots of tuna, but back then in the ’80s and ’90s the tuna would always come from a can. And when my parents were invited over for dinner by friends, it was really trendy to serve tuna mousse made of canned tuna as a starter. It was even perceived as something quite sophisticated. Well, it was the ’80s after all, and you could still get away with whipping up something out of a can without losing self-respect.
I won’t deny I have lots of fond memories of canned tuna, and I still love tuna mousse. But since fresh tuna has become so much more available, I think we deserve to take advantage of that. This slightly hipster tuna starter is just as easy to make as the ’80s tuna mousse, but radically more complex in the combination of tastes. And, if I may be so bold, a lot prettier to look at 😉
Seared tuna starter with pickled red onions, caper berries and honey mustard mayo
2/3 lbs (300 g) fresh sushi grade tuna
Canola (rapeseed) oil
About 2.5 oz (75 g) caper berries
1 handful pea shoots
Salt and pepper
For the pickled red onions:
3.5 oz (100 ml) white vinegar
3.5 oz (100 ml) water
1/2 cup (100 g) sugar
About 10 red pearl onions or two medium sized red onions
For the honey mustard mayo:
3.5 tbsp mayonnaise
1.5 tbsp yellow mustard
1/2 tsp clear honey
1. Start by making the pickled red onion at least 30-40 minutes, or the day, before you plan on serving the starter. Pour the vinegar, water, sugar and peppercorns into a small pot and bring to a boil.
2. Peel and cut the red onions into thin slices and put them in a small mason jar. Once the vinegar water mix reaches a boil, pour it over the onions in the jar, seal the jar tight with a lid, and put in the fridge immediately. Leave to cool and marinate for at least 30 min. The pickled onions will easily keep in the fridge for a couple of weeks.
3. Now mix together the mayo, mustard and honey. I usually store it in a small plastic squeeze bottle, as it makes it easier to decorate the dish nicely with the honey mustard mayo before serving. Keep in the fridge until the rest is ready.
4. Before searing the tuna, cut it into long chunks about 2 x 2 inches (5 x 5 cm). This way it makes it easier to control the searing and the slices become more bite size and elegant when you serve it. Season well with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
5. Pour a generous amount of canola oil into a good frying pan and place it over high heat. When the oil is hot, place the long chunks of tuna on the pan, and sear for about 1.5-2 minutes on each side. Make sure to keep the pan on high heat. Tongs are ideal for turning the tuna while it sears. Take the tuna off the pan and let it rest for a couple of minutes.
6. Slice the tuna carefully, and then assemble the dish with slices of tuna first, then a dot of honey mustard mayo, then a bit of pickled red onion and finally caper berries on top. Garnish with pea shoot and a couple of extra dots of honey mustard mayo.
Want to add a couple of other starters? Try this yummy ricotta cream starter:
Or, maybe this amazing Louisiana Cajun shrimp bread: