If the Husband were to be asked to name his favourite meal, what do you think it would be? My Roast Chicken with Garlic and Lemon? Spiced Lamb with potatoes from the garden? Perhaps a homemade pie or pizza? Nope. They can all be easily trumped by a five-minute, comfort-food supper: canned tuna, mixed with a little mayo, some piquant capers and red onion, spread on toast and topped with melted cheese.
I’ve been making variations of these Tuna Melts for years after first discovering them at Tribes Coffee Shop in Cork. The only cafe in the city that stayed open until 4am, we used to head there for herbal teas and hot chocolates after dancing like lunatics for a couple of hours in Gorbys nightclub. On one of my rare daylight visits I tried one of their Tuna Melts and it’s been part of my own repertoire ever since.
Because the ingredients are always in the house, it’s the first meal we normally have when coming home after a holiday, a guaranteed family pleaser on a Sunday night – the biggest problem is trying to prevent Little Missy from eating all tuna before it goes on the toast – and an ideal pick-me-up if someone is feeling under the weather (or has a hangover).
You probably don’t need a recipe for this but, just in case you might think that tinned sweetcorn should be included – too many places try that trick, not knowing that sweetcorn from a tin is only good for fritters – there’s a set of directions below. Oh, and that lurid orange, grated-for-years cheddar that the same people think should also be included? Just say NO.
This is particularly good when made with tomato and fennel bread. I’ve also been known to add slices of gherkin under the cheese, a finely chopped red pepper is always good and, if you don’t have to worry about smallies’ more sensitive palates, slices of jalapeno peppers make a mighty fine addition.
4 slices of decent bread
2 thin slices of red onion, chopped finely
A good squeeze of lemon juice
1 185g can of tuna, drained
1 tablespoon mayonnaise (homemade or Hellman’s for preference)
1 teaspoon grainy mustard
1 teaspoon of drained capers, chopped finely
Freshly ground black pepper
2-3 tablespoons chutney
200g mature cheddar, or to taste, sliced thinly
Heat grill and toast the bread lightly on one side. Meanwhile, put the red onion into a bowl with the lemon juice and allow to soak for a minute. Add the drained, flaked tuna, the mayonnaise, grainy mustard, chopped capers and lots of black pepper. Mix gently and taste, adding more lemon/mayo/pepper as necessary.
Spread the chutney on the untoasted side of the bread. Divide the tuna between the bread, top generously with slices of mature cheddar, a final grind of the pepper mill and grill until bubbling.
Eat with a salad of thinly sliced tomatoes, well seasoned and spritzed with some lemon juice from that lemon you opened earlier. Fabulous with a simple rocket salad too.
Serves 2 (plus a Little Missy, if you make extra cheese on toast).