Basque Tuna Stew (Marmitako)

Submitted by:
Ibon Santiago González, Munich, Germany
Biophysics

Image Source: Author

Ingredients

1 medium onion, roughly chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 green pepper
1 red pepper
1/2kg fresh tomatoes
1kg potatoes, peeled
650g fresh tuna (or bonito), cut in cubes
1 tablespoon choricero red pepper purée (pimiento choricero puree)
12 teaspoons olive oil
1 litre water
Some white wine

Serves 4 people

1. Peel the tomatoes and potatoes. Roughly chop the tomatoes keeping the juice. To crack the potatoes into chestnut-sized pieces, make a small cut in each potato and then break it open the rest of the way. Set the potato pieces aside.

2. Cut the tuna into small pieces. Sprinkle the pieces with coarse salt and set them aside.

3. In a saucepan large enough to hold all the ingredients, heat the olive oil over a medium flame. Add the onions, then the garlic, and sauté until fragrant. Add salt and stir.

4. Mix in the sliced green (and red) peppers, followed by the chopped tomato pulp, stirring briefly after each addition to incorporate.

5. Add the potatoes to the pan, stirring to coat with the tomatoes. Bring to a simmer.

6. Add the pepper purée and enough water or wine that the potatoes do not stick to the pan as they cook. Continue cooking and adding liquid, if necessary, until the potatoes feel soft when poked with a fork.

7. Add the tuna, mix gently with the other ingredients, and add a bit more liquid if it is necessary. Continue simmering for about 5 minutes until the tuna is fully cooked (opaque coloured). Do not overcook tuna.

Background

Marmitako is a traditional pot dish original from the Basque Country. It was the Basque fishermen - also known as arrantzaleak - who first came up with this recipe. The name comes from the word "marmita", a casserole dish used on fishing boats to be able to cook for hungry fishermen.
I grew up in the Basque Coast not far away from the fishing town of Bermeo. One of the highlights of the summer festivals there are the Marmitako competitions. Groups of friends gather to cook Marmitako and are judged by a panel of expert Marmitako tasters (what a great job!) who choose the best dish.
The art of the perfect Marmitako consists of using the right ingredients, cracking the potato in a certain way so that there is enough surface area for the starch to give the right texture, and cooking the tuna for the right amount of time (just a few minutes!).
This recipe I learnt from my father, and whenever I cook it, it brings me memories of the sea, the beautiful island of Izaro and the stunning view of the immense Atlantic Ocean from the Bay of Biscay.
If you find good tuna (ideally, Bonito, Albacore tuna, Thunnus Alalunga), and can get hold of the juice of the chorizero red pepper, your Marmitako will surely be worthy of a competition.
As a curiosity, when French President Macron hosted the G7 meeting in Biarritz (French Basque Country), he welcomed guests with a Marmitako!
On Egin! (Guten Appetit! )

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