Sent-a-mint-al Tuna (In Mint Sauce)

tuna mint sauce dinnerAnother day, another bunch of mint

I have a friend; she is from the North of England. We go walking in the hills with our dogs pretty regularly and in the course of walking and talking we got around to mint.

I told you when I get stuck on these ingredients it’s all I talk about. But this friend is a good sport and was willing to share some of her memories of mint.

It seems her father was a bit of a cook. Maybe not the main cook in the household and maybe not what we might consider a gourmet today. But, evidently he made a heck of a mint sauce. He served it with lamb and it’s one of those wonderful memories from her childhood that we all have of our time growing up.

Well when someone says “North of England”, lamb” and “mint”, all in the same sentence. My mind goes straight to mint jelly.

Click For More On Chateau BonnetClick For More On Chateau BonnetThere are very few foods I will ever say this about. But I HATE mint jelly. I HATE the color. I HATE the jar it comes in. But I mostly HATE the way it tastes. All sickly sweet with some strange animal-like texture to it that just makes me wonder what exactly is in the stuff.

So I will admit, as she was talking about her dad’s mint sauce, I was desperately trying to think of a way to change the subject. I just knew she was going to ask me to make it her “ole dad’s way.

But then I heard her say. “It was the simplest of sauces, I swear there wasn’t much to it but mint, salt, a bit of sugar and malt vinegar”. Now granted she does have a bit of an accent, but I swear I heard her say vinegar. If that were true, I would have to call this sauce pickled mint. I loved the idea of pickled mint!

Sure enough. Low and behold, I had heard her right! A mint sauce I could love. I was ecstatic.

2 problems: I just posted a flatbread recipe with mint and lamb. SippitySup can’t do lamb 2 days in a row. People would think Sup had lost his marbles. I may be an unapologetic carnivore, but I still limit my meat to once or twice a week. Besides, my friend, she does not eat meat at all. What to do? What to do? I could not make her “ole dad’s” sauce and not invite her to dinner.

She does eat fish on occasion and tuna seemed like a good answer. I think tuna works with mint for all the same reasons it works with lamb. So tuna it is. Besides Grilled Tuna with Savory Mint Sauce has a nice ring to it.

I would simply grill the fish. I chose pole-caught Canadian Albacore because it is a Seafood Watch Best Choice for tuna.

Tuna is a very flavorful, fatty fish. So, I certainly want to keep the sauce bright and herby. Which is a wonderful way to highlight the fish’s best qualities. Still I don’t want this fish to be saucy either. So a light hand is in order here.

For the sauce I followed my instincts. My instincts told me not to gussy this up. I want a pure herbal taste from my mint. Balanced and kept from being cloying with vinegar. I chose standard spearmint, which does not contain menthol and has that herbal quality I was seeking. 

tuns with a savory mint sauceI put 1/2 cup of chopped spearmint into a medium sized heatproof bowl. Then in a small stainless-steel saucepan, I brought some water to a simmer over moderate heat. Next I added the sugar and stirred until it was completely dissolved.

I added 3/4‑cup malt vinegar, 2 cloves of minced garlic, and 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Let the sauce cook for a few minutes until it reduces some and gets a little syrupy.

I then poured the mixture over the mint and let it sit for 15 minutes.

While that was steeping I grilled the fish in a grill pan set over medium heat. 4 minutes on one side and 3 to 4 minutes longer on the other side for medium rare. I did some fancy turns to get the nice grill pattern. That’s optional.

To serve strain the steeped mint sauce through a sieve into a sauceboat or serving bowl. Stir in the remaining 1/4‑cup of mint. Pass the sauce with the fish. Just a swirl and a drizzle is all it needs.

I hope I did my friends “ole dad” proud.


Greg Henry