Instant gratification – tuna, bean and watercress salad

by sophie on November 22, 2007 · 5 comments

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This salad has been a regular fixture in both of our work lunchboxes ever since I first made it a couple of months back. It isn’t anything fancy, just a quick tuna and bean salad that you can assemble in under five minutes, and for which you can keep most of the ingredients in the cupboard. It is a lunch for a greedy day, for when you feel like a great bowlful of something to munch through but don’t particularly welcome the accompanying calories (very rarely do you get such a big helping for around the 300kcal mark).

The tuna is good quality tuna fillets in olive oil for taste, sustainability, and for the small helping of omega-3 fatty acids this will contain (you can find more detail about this in an earlier post; Some tips for buying ethical and healthy tuna, with a simple nicoise recipe). For anybody who doesn’t really like canned tuna but who likes most other fish, I would really recommend hunting out some top quality canned tuna like yellowfin ventresca fillets and giving it a try (see the aforementioned earlier post for details). It tastes much better than the usual sort, which can be a bit dry and bland, without being overly expensive. I also use organic beans for this salad where possible, working on the theory that they will have been grown using sensible agricultural methods.

This recipe and my last post about the great health benefits and sustainability of beans were inspired by Nigella Lawson’s prodigious use of canned beans in her latest book Nigella Express (you can find the earlier post here “The perfect convenience food? Why a humble tin of beans is good for you and the planet“). Ironically this declaration of inspiration was followed by a passionate discussion about how we were all a bit disappointed in Nigella for unhealthy and envioronmentally unfriendly ways of late!

Nigella suggests her tuna and bean salad as part of a shared antipasti meal, but we prefer this on its own for lunch, lightened with a generous helping of salad leaves. Nigella’s recipe uses red onion, leaving me mildly perplexed as to why she didn’t take her own advice and go for spring onions, which you can simply snip into the salad with a pair of scissors. Instead of parsley I have gone for our very own indigenous designer leaf, a big handful of crunchy, emerald watercress, snipped into short lengths for easy eating (there are few things less glamorous at lunch time than trying to bite your way through a stubborn, dangling piece of watercress). If you are really lucky you might be able to find watercress puncutated with cute little white flowers.

Recipe for Tuna, bean and watercress salad

Serves one hungry person

Feel free to try this using other beans such as borlotti beans, but nothing as huge as butter beans.

1 small tin of good quality tuna in olive oil, roughly drained
1 400g can of canenllini beans (white kidney beans), drained and rinsed
2 spring onions (scallions)
1 large handful watercress leaves
Juice of half a lemon (or the equivalent amount from one of those squeezy bottles of ready squeezed if that is what you have in)
Pepper

Snip the spring onions into small pieces, straight into a large bowl. Using the same scissors, snip the watercress into the bowl in roughly 2 inch lengths (you can use a knife and chopping board for these steps but this way there is less to wash up).

Add the beans, tuna and lemon juice to the bowl and toss.

Season with pepper to taste.

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