We don’t put enough fish on our barbecues. It’s a sad fact that when the sun comes out for those few days each year, we – in between gleefully removing our clothes to reveal pasty flab that hasn’t seen sunlight since October, or insisting on accompanying every remotely social occasion with gallons of Pimm’s - head blindly for the supermarket barbecue selection, for the same old sausages, burgers and – if we’re lucky – maybe something as exotic as a lamb kofta skewer or a chicken satay stick.
Yet fish has so much to offer in the world of hot coals. It’s healthier. It’s far quicker to cook than chicken or sausages, and with less risk of food poisoning if it’s still slightly rare in the middle. It has the wow factor – a bunch of fresh, glistening sardines sitting astride the searing rungs of the grill are far more likely to cause conversation than a dreary assortment of pasty meat items.
Oily fish take best to the barbecue treatment, because they can stand up to the sort of assertive flavourings that work best with chargrilled protein. Mackerel, sardines, salmon and tuna are all excellent seared over hot charcoal, and all the more so when accompanied by a zingy, vibrant, fresh salsa or salad.
This is perhaps the ultimate fish barbecue dish. It’s incredibly quick to prepare – you just season the tuna, and slap it on the grill. You could go wild with seasoning, if you like, maybe using some Cajun-style cumin and coriander, or some smoked paprika, but it’s delicious too with just salt and pepper, allowing the tuna to show off. The salsa is made in minutes (and you can make it in advance, to save last-minute dinner stress), and is possibly the most gorgeous-looking summer side dish you will ever see, as well as tasting incredible. There’s crunchy cucumber for texture, creamy avocado, ripe, juicy mango, and a hit of flavour from chilli, basil, mint and lots of lime. If you’re making this in June or July, try and get your hands on Alphonso or Pakistani mangoes from Asian grocers – they are a world away from supermarket mangoes, with a sublime perfumed sweetness that is excellent in this salsa.
If you don’t have a barbecue or the weather isn’t playing nice, fear not: this can be made just as well using a hot griddle pan, and you’ll still get those attractive char marks on your tuna steak. The recipe below serves one, because this is exactly the sort of dish I love to make for myself when it’s just me: simple, quick, but amazingly enjoyable to eat. That said, it’s also great for a crowd for those very reasons, so next time the sun is out and you’re feeling summery, swap your burgers for a pescatarian barbecue feast. And don’t forget the Pimm’s, of course.
Finely dice the avocado and put into a small bowl. Remove the seeds from the cucumber and finely dice. Add to the avocado. Prepare the mango by slicing on each half of the stone, then scoring in a criss-cross pattern before turning inside out. Slice into small dice and add to the avocado and cucumber. Finely shred the herbs and finely chop the chilli, then add to the bowl along with the lime zest and juice.
Season the tuna steak with olive oil, salt and pepper. Get the barbecue ready to cook, or get a griddle pan very hot, then sear the tuna for a couple of minutes on each side (depending on how well-cooked you like it). Serve immediately alongside the salsa.