It’s getting hot in here… in the kitchen, I mean! Our living room/kitchen becomes quite the sauna in the afternoon and while we do want something freshly cooked for dinner, we don’t want to spend a lot of time cooking it. Enter this recipe.

Tuna with Lemon and Basil Spaghetti

I originally saw a recipe for tuna, lemon and basil spaghetti on a Waitrose recipe card but felt that the amounts needed a bit of adjusting. More capers, some pine nuts for texture and flavour and ditto with black pepper were added along with an extra good glug of olive oil. One day, we found ourselves with no basil and so substituted parsley with good results. It’s a great summer pasta and it comes together quickly with barely any time spent over a hot stove.

Tuna with Lemon and Parsley Spaghetti

Spaghetti with Tuna and Lemon
serves 2.

1 can or jar of a very good quality tuna packed in extra virgin olive oil
1 lemon
4 tsps capers
3-4 tbsps pine nuts
1 small bunch basil or a small handful of parsley
200-250g dried spaghetti or linguine
freshly cracked black pepper
extra virgin olive oil

Set a large pot of water to boil and when it is, salt it well and start cooking your pasta.

In a small pan over medium heat, toast the pinenuts, stirring often (adding a little olive oil to fry them is also recommended!). Set aside. If using basil, cut the leaves into a chiffonade and set aside; if using parsley, chop it and set aside.

In a large bowl, empty the can of tuna and gently flake it into bite sized pieces with a fork. Add the zest of the lemon as well as its juice. Roughly chop the drained capers and add those along with the toasted pinenuts. Grind in as much black pepper as you like.

The spaghetti should be done by now. Drain and add to the bowl. Toss everything together, add the herbs and continue tossing until mixed well. Add more olive oil if it looks like it needs it – we use quite a bit! Serve.

I’m submitting this post to Presto Pasta Nights, this week hosted by Fuss Free Flavours.

Normally, I am absolutely terrible with leftovers. They tend to sit in the fridge where I ignore them and they go off or I just reheat them and eat a boring meal which reminds me of the meal from the day before – oh wait, it *is* the same meal. Unless I plan something in advance, I’m unlikely to grab those leftovers and make something new and exciting from them. It’s not like I don’t know what to do with them – I know that leftover pasta can be mixed with eggs to make a pasta frittata, leftover stews can go into a pie, leftover roasts into salads or sandwiches or soups – but when faced with something that needs using up, my mind goes blank instantly and I resort to heating it up and eating it as is. Dull dull dull. (Well, unless it’s a cold cooked sausage – those are nice!) How do you deal with leftovers?

But no, I will learn to use leftovers more creatively – I have managed a little in the past! Recently, I found myself with a quantity of leftover mashed potatoes from a meal of sausages and mash. The last thing I wanted was to reheat it and stick a few more sausages into it and so I actually had to think about it for a while before coming up with fish cakes. I like the fish cakes I’ve had in restaurants – surely I could make something like that with leftover mash and a tin of tuna? Call them poor man’s fish cakes if you must.

Tuna and Potato Cakes

This is a very basic recipe and it’s easy to enhance it with more herbs, some chopped vegetables or even substitute the tuna for cooked salmon or chopped leftover cooked meats.

Tuna and Potato Cakes
serves 2-3.

about 600g leftover mashed potatoes
1 tin tuna packed in oil
a small handful parsley
salt and lots of freshly ground black pepper
1 egg
dry breadcrumbs
sunflower oil for frying

Flake the tuna and mix it and the parsley with the mashed potatoes. Season with lots of pepper and salt if needed (your leftover mashed potatoes are probably already seasoned well).

In a small shallow bowl, beat the egg along with about 2 teaspoons of water. In another small shallow bowl or plate, fill with dry breadcrumbs. Form fish cakes/patties out of the mashed potato mixture – I find it easiest to form a tight round sphere and then gently flatten it. Dip the cake into the beaten egg, making sure to coat it entirely, and then toss it through the breadcrumbs. Set aside. Continue with the rest of mixture – I ended up making about 15 from the amount I had.

Prep

Heat a frying pan over medium heat and pour in sunflower oil to about a 1cm depth. Fry the cakes in batches (don’t overcrowd the pan) for a couple minutes on each side, until they’re golden brown.

Frying the Cakes

Drain them on kitchen paper and serve with a wedge of lemon and salad on the side.

And I’m cooking again! The deadline has been met and I sort of celebrated by coming home and cooking dinner. Now, rather bizarrely, I’d been wanting to make a tuna noodle casserole for a while – this is probably due to a number of factors. Firstly, it’s a casserole, people! A casserole! This is one of the most exotic of foodstuffs to me, having grown up on no casseroles whatsoever. I’ve had gratins and lasagnes but they’re surely not casseroles, those meals in a baking dish. (Europeans, do not confuse this casserole with those big heavy Le Creuset style pots you have. The casserole I’m talking about is the North American kind). In the American Midwest, a casserole is known as a hotdish. I have no idea why.

Secondly, tuna noodle casserole seems to be one of those classics of the casserole world. I believe it’s traditionally made with a can of cream of mushroom soup but I thought that a homemade bechamel would suit and taste better. I followed a couple ideas from the recipe from Cooking for Engineers and I really wanted to add peas but I had run out of frozen ones in my freezer. I also wanted to use proper short dried egg noodles but my local shop had run out and so I used tagliatelle instead. This is what resulted – it was delicious but quite ugly!

Tuna Noodle Casserole

Tuna Noodle Casserole
adapted from Cooking for Engineers
serves 2 with leftovers.

200g tagliatelle (substitute short, flat egg noodles)
a bunch of button mushrooms, more if you really like them!, sliced
2 spring onions, sliced thinly
about 1 tbsp oil or butter for frying
1 tin tuna, packed in oil, drained
3 tbsps butter
2.5 tbsps flour
about 500 mL whole milk
1 tsp chicken stock granules
salt and freshly ground black pepper
cracker crumbs or crushed potato crisps (I’m going to use this next time!)

Heat a frying pan over a medium heat, add about 1 tbsp oil or butter and fry the sliced mushrooms and scallions until softened and the mushrooms have released their water. Boil and pot of water and boil the tagliatelle until al dente. Drain and rinse with cold water and then cut them into shorter lengths. Preheat your oven to 180 Celsius.

Now to make your bechamel. Heat a pan over medium-low heat and melt the 3 tbsps butter. Whisk in the flour and cook, whisking often, for 2-3 minutes. Add the milk slowly, along with the chicken stock granules, whisking in all the flour and butter mixture. Whisk a lot and there should be no lumps! After all the milk has been incorporated, continue cooking for about 10 minutes, whisking often. You’ll find that the raw flour taste will go and the mixture will be smooth and thick. If you want it a little thinner, add more milk.

Mix the tuna and the mushroom mix together with the bechamel. Add salt and pepper to taste and then mix the noodles in too. Spread the mixture out into a suitable baking dish. Sprinkle the crumbs on top and then stick the whole thing into the oven. Serve when it’s bubbling through.