Wednesday, January 20, 2010

A Nigella Triple Threat: Pepper Seared Tuna, Vietnamese Dipping Sauce and Soba Noodles with Sesame Seeds

This week is our monthly "Potluck" theme at I Heart Cooking Clubs and the chance to make any Nigella recipe that strikes our fancy. I wanted a recipe that was simple, healthy and tasted great and I found three--all from Nigella's "Forever Summer" cookbook. I love fresh local ahi tuna so the Pepper Seared Tuna was an easy choice. Nigella suggests dipping the tuna in the Vietnamese Dressing from her Shrimp and Black Rice Salad and so I decided to try it with a couple of small changes to reduce the sugar and make the flavor fit better into the meal. Finally I had been wanting to try the Soba Noodles with Sesame Seeds and thought it would be perfect with the peppery tuna. Any changes I made are in red below.

Pepper Seared Tuna
"Forever Summer" Nigella Lawson (pg 86-87)
Serves 8 as a Starter)

1 tablespoon sesame oil

1 teaspoon prepared English mustard
18-ounces sashimi-quality tuna fillet cut in a log of even thickness at either end
3–4 tablespoons black peppercorns, crushed roughly in a pestle and mortar

To Serve:
cucumber, cut into slender batons
a few scallions, cut into short lengths and then into fine strips

In a small bowl mix the oil and mustard, and use a pastry brush to paint it on the tuna. Roll the tuna in the crushed peppercorns so that the long sides of the log are covered, but the ends are not.

Heat a dry frying pan until it’s very hot and cook the tuna on all the long sides, searing the fish to about 1/4-inch in a circle around the edge. You’ll be able to see how much of it’s cooked, because the ruby flesh will turn brown and the depth of the ring, if you see what I mean, will be evident from the uncoated round ends. Take out of the pan immediately and cool on a plate.

With a sharp knife cut into the finest slices you can and serve with the cucumber and scallions and soy, dipping sauce, wasabi, as you please.

Vietnamese (Fusion) Dressing
"Forever Summer" Nigella Lawson (pg 75)

2 cloves garlic, minced or crushed
2 fresh Thai birdeye chillies or other red chilies, finely sliced (used sambal oelek paste)
aprox. 1 1/2-inch piece fresh ginger, finely minced
4 tablespoons fish sauce (Used 3 Tbsp tamari sauce and 1 Tbsp fish sauce)
2 tablespoons lime juice (about 1 lime)
4 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons granulated sugar (Used 1/2 Tbsp agave syrup)

To make the sauce, simply mix all the ingredients together. It doesn't get much less complicated than that, frankly.

Soba Noodles with Sesame Seeds
"Forever Summer" Nigella Lawson (pg 48-49)
(Serves 4 as part of a meal or 2 when eaten, gratifyingly, as they are)

1/3 cup sesame seeds
8 oz soba noodles
2 teaspoons rice vinegar
5 teaspoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons honey
2 teaspoons sesame oil
5 scallions

Toast the sesame seeds in a dry pan over a high heat until they look golden brown, and tip them into a bowl.

Bring a large pan of water to the boil and add some salt.
(I didn't add any salt--you rinse the noodles anyway). Put in the soba noodles and cook them for about 6 minutes (or according to packet instructions) until they are tender but not mushy. Have a bowl of iced water waiting to plunge them into after draining.

In the bowl you are going to serve them in, mix the vinegar, soy sauce, honey and oil. Then finely slice the scallions and put them into the bowl with the cooled, drained noodles and mix together thoroughly before adding the sesame seeds and tossing again.

Leave the sesame seed noodles for about half an hour to let the flavors develop, although this is not absolutely necessary or sometimes even possible.

Notes/Results: Everything was delicious--I liked each dish and it all worked really well together. The meal goes together very quickly--the most time is spent grinding the pepper and chopping the onions. Even with just a thin layer of pepper, the tuna is very peppery-spicy which I like, and the noodles provide a nice, cooling contrast to it. If you don't like it so peppery a good option is to mix some sesame seeds and pepper together to cut down the heat. I wanted the dressing/dipping sauce for the tuna to compliment the dressing on the noodles so I reduced the amount of fish sauce in it and replaced it with a low sodium tamari (fermented soy sauce). I also replaced the sugar with a lesser amount of agave. The noodles are pretty perfect as is--the dressing and toasted sesame seeds go really nicely with the buckwheat soba, and I like it even better than the peanut or almond butter sauced cold noodles I normally make. The only change I made was not to salt the cooking water of the noodles as you rinse them in cold water anyway, and the soy sauce makes them salty enough. I will make all three of these recipes again.

You can see what the other IHCC members selected as their "Potluck" creations by going to the IHCC site here and following the links.


  1. What a great dish for the potluck! I love how you made a complete meal rather than just a piece of one. That tuna looks delicious...makes me want to jump into the screen and eat it.

  2. Triple delciousness...great fantastic as ever!!!

  3. The tuna looks perfectly seared. My BIL made it once and it was fantastic, it reminds me of that! The pasta dish sounds yummy as well. Great offerings!

  4. It's way too cold for me to want to eat that today! But it looks so fresh and delicious! If only I were in Hawaii.

  5. You went all out Deb! It's a great looking meal. Wow - you liked the soba noodles better than the peanut butter sesame noodles? That's saying a lot! Sounds like I'll have to try out those soba noodles.

  6. oh yummy great meal and love the noodles thanks for so many lovely Asian inspired meals to teach me

  7. Wow, you are a rock star! What an incredible meal. Can you make me this for my birthday? And also send plane tickets... ;-)
    Wonderful pick - and so you!

  8. Wow deb this meal really is a dream !!

  9. Man, this looks deee-lish and simple. We're heading to Hawaii in March - all I want to eat is fish for a week! Not that I can't get some nice fish up here in Seattle...

  10. Wow, everything look absolutely delicious...what a great meal! The pictures are so tempting :-)

  11. Looks wonderful! I almost made the soba noodles. I will next week cause they look mighty good!

  12. What a gorgeous photo! I'd love to try those soba noodles.

  13. Everything looks so delicious! I bet the dressing would be good on almost anything. And I definitely want to try the noodles - I just love PB noodles.

  14. It is totally time for us to test out soba noodles! This is a great dinner.

  15. So ready to try the soba noodles! They look delicious!!

  16. I've never really made any Vietnamese dishes at home. This looks and sounds fabulous.


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