Chat with a chef: Josh Niland shares top tips for buying tuna

Chat with a chef: Josh Niland shares top tips for buying tuna

Josh Niland mincing tuna. Photo by Rob Palmer.

Acclaimed chef Josh Niland has released Take One Fish, the highly-anticipated follow up to his multiple award-winning The Whole Fish Cookbook. In his new cookbook, Josh continues his singular mission to show readers that fish is so much more than two fillets held together by a head and tail. Tuna Australia spoke with Josh to get his top tips for buying fresh tuna and to ask about his favourite tuna recipe.

Tuna is one of the 15 global fish species featured in your new cookbook. What should people look for when buying tuna?

Like all fish, follow those key quality points both externally if buying a whole fish and internally if only buying the fillet:

  • Clear and bulbous eyes are a critical sign of freshness and length of time out of the water.
  • A nice covering of slime (glycoprotein) on the outside of the fish indicates time out of water. The longer it has been hanging around, the less prominent this blanket of slime will be.
  • All scales intact and unaffected by ice damage, bruising, hook marks or bite marks. Unknown punctures to fish skin and flesh can introduce unknown bacteria or parasites.
  • Look for clear, 'glassy'-like flesh as this will indicate the fish was handled at the correct temperatures from the point of capture right through to being sold over the counter. It will also show a happy fish; if a fish was stressed and left to die in a net as opposed to a quick and immediate kill then you would see a far milkier, almost foggy complexion to the fish flesh. This would affect the quality of the cooked product. You would also find it would release moisture as it is cooked due to lactic acid residing in the flesh, which in turn 'cooks' the flesh from the inside out.

You have an incredible flair for developing creative new recipes involving tuna. What's your favourite tuna recipe from Take One Fish?

Acclaimed chef Josh Niland. Photo by Rob Palmer.

It's not the one recipe that I would say is my favourite in Take One Fish but it's more the overarching method that is my favourite.

The idea to mince tuna and see it as an animal mince is incredibly inspiring creatively. Not only does it offer so much culinary potential and opportunity but, more importantly, it allows us to work with tuna more holistically, giving us the opportunity to use far more. From the lateral swimming muscle to the sinew filled tail and chains that sit alongside the loin.

Tuna shouldn't just be seen as a one-dimensional sashimi cut product that only the circle out of the centre of the loin will do. There needs to be greater energy and creativity placed on the secondary cuts of this magnificent fish if we want to continue to work with it in years to come.

Cook like a pro: Try Josh’s recipe for tuna kofta with BBQ grapes and sour garlic sauce from Take One Fish.

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