Saturday, 25 June 2011

Some Like it Cold ( Italian Tuna and potato Salad- Insalata di Tonno e Patate)

Dried mountain origano, wild escarole and quail eggs

This dish was sometimes our "cena" (evening meal) in Summer, when it was too warm to eat hot food!
We would just have it with delicious "pane di Altamura" a bread so good it's exported all over the world! My mamma used to select a loaf which was "ben cotto"... well done... which usually, in her case meant "burnt." Pane di Altamura is traditionally cooked in ancient stone ovens, not because we don't have modern bakeries, in Italy, but because we tend to preserve and look after things which are part of our history and culinary tradition: bread and pizza cooked in old stone ovens are the best.

A slice of "well done..." Altamura bread

Anyway! Yes, especially on a Summer evening, we would have one of the many salads my mum used to make. The one I made actually incorporates many of the flavours and the aromas of the Mediterranean and, I believe, every Southern European country has its own version. To me, this is just a salad my mum used to make. When I make it I can see her, in our kitchen, full of life and smiles... it's good that I have so many memories of life with her, just the two of us, together... all the time.

Here is the recipe:
Insalata di Patate con Tonno
(Potato and tuna salad)
Four servings
6 medium sized potatoes
1 onion
1 large can tuna or salmon
a couple of Spring onions
a generous spoonful capers in vinegar
1 large beef tomato
5-6 small salad  tomatoes
Olive oil (as much or as little as you like)
black pepper
3boiled eggs, sliced
some cold water
a light sprinkling of dried origano

This is really SO EASY! Prepare all your ingredients. Boil your potatoes (skin on) making sure they are soft, but firm, then peel and cut into largish cubes. Slice your onion and your Spring onions. Open your can of tuna, so it's ready. Your beef tomato (or tomatoes) will need to be diced or sliced and make sure to have a nice tablespoon full of capers, as they really make this salad!
I was given some very happy quail eggs, so I used them, boiled, in my salad. Because they are so tiny, I also used a couple of free range eggs, kindly donated by some chickens who share "quarters" with the quails!


All you need to do is place all the ingredients in a large bowl, mix them together ( very gently) and, at the end, add a generous glug of olive oil, or two, or as many as you like, within reason, of course! Add your origano ( mine was picked up in the Cilento mountains, Italy, and dried by me) a small glass of cold water, as this salad is not meant to be dry as such, as you have it with bread (yum, yum, yum!)

My special origano, from Italy

As you can see from the pictures, I added something green, as I had this wild dandelion and wild escarole growing in my garden. I had most of it boiled and I then added a very small amount of olive oil, but I also added some of the leaves to my salad.

My beautiful salad!

I finished the salad off by adding my sliced, boiled eggs. This is a truly magnificent example that healthy doesn't have to boring. I think my salad is as beautiful as Marylin Monroe. Don't you?

Wild escarole and dandelion

We had this salad with fish cakes ( "croquettes di pesce") I made using mashed potatoes, sliced spring onions, 1 egg yolk, 1 fresh salmon steak, poached and flaked, some grated pecorino cheese and some fresh Italian parsley. I shaped my croquettes, dipped them in my delicious bread crumbs and fried (but you can bake them in a hot oven)

"Al Bacio!"  Just beautiful! In the window of Caffe` Roma, Modugno, Italy

Croquettes di pesce e insalata di tonno e patate!
Che buono!


  1. Anna - you salmon cakes and salad are also on my list - I love how simply you make the recipes and always with the freshest ingredients and fond memories of your beautiful mother.
    I most definitely prefer your cooking to pictures of Marilyn Monroe (to each eye its own beauty)

  2. Helen,

    If you make the salmon cakes you might like to add some red chilli, which I don't think I mentioned. I like fresh red chillies... they are hot and colourful.

    Every time I cook or write about food, I have to mention my mother as she was my teacher and my "mamma" I spent many happy hours with her and I am glad I have so many memories, as the present is not good for her. thank God for the past...

    Thank you, Helen!