Wild Bluefin Tuna Belly In Olive Oil
ATÚN ROJO SALVAJE
Don Bocarte use fresh wild bluefin tuna, fished using the traditional almadraba method, a type of sustainable fishing that takes place in Barbate (Cadiz) between May and June.
Almadraba fishing was invented by the Phoenicians 3000 years ago, the almadraba is an ingenious system - the nets are positioned precisely in the section of the sea (close to the Straits of Gibraltar) where the tuna pass on their way to the Mediterranean, as they migrate to warmer water.
THE ALMADRABA: CATCHING BLUE-FIN TUNA THE TRADITIONAL WAY
Every year in May, after the first full moon, fishermen from towns on the Cadiz part of the Costa de la Luz, set up a complicated labyrinth of nets off the Atlantic coast, called the almadraba, to catch bluefin tuna. This is a major social and gastronomic event, providing essential (if seasonal) work for fishermen, packing factories, restaurants along the coast.
Known as atun rojo (red tuna, thunnus thynnus) in Spain, this dark red-coloured fish is highly prized - the taste is sweet, dense yet tender flesh. Almadraba tuna is not cheap: around £35/kg for the basic cuts, rising to nearly £50/kg for the prized Ventresca (belly).
With fat reserves to keep warm during the winter, and to provide energy for the long journey south, the fish is at its most succulent. The tuna swim through different parts of the nets until they're caught in a central area, encircled by a ring of boats; the net is then lifted and the largest specimens selected by the expert fishermen - each can weigh more than 500kg. This is called the levantá (raising); the net is then lowered back into the sea - the bajá.
They also have almadrabas when the tuna return from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic, in September and October, but these tuna produce drier, less fatty meat, destined for the canneries; the spring catch is considered of superior quality.
The almadraba, which comes from an Arabic word meaning fight or strike, is a perfect example of sustainable fishing - only the tuna are caught, no other fish, and only the biggest of them are kept; the others are returned to the ocean. There is no waste, and no over-fishing - the fishermen know exactly which specimens they want; there's a strict quota, and it's not in their interests to exceed it.
Chefs Tip: Tuna belly is an often overlooked ingredient but it is in fact very versatile and high in omega3. Only a small portion is available per tuna and usually expensive, but worth it.
Tuna belly from a Blue Fin Tuna or 'Toro' is generally considered the king of all sushi ingredients, the best tuna belly sushi will literally melt in the mouth. It can be used in Maki rolls or Nigiri.
It can also be used stirred through freshly cooked pasta with addition capers and plentiful fresh herbs or on toast as an appetiser.
Presentation: Tin of Ventresca - Belly