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Marmitako (Basque Tuna Stew)

With our Trash to Treasure challenge on this week, here is a fantastic way to use up tomatoes and capsicums that are getting a bit old, have a funny spot, or maybe are just “ugly produce.”  Since it is going in a stew…who cares what it looks like to start! I’m certainly not saying- don’t buy the nicest produce you can and to try and use it when it is perfectly fresh… but sometimes… we buy a few too many tomatoes, we go out for a meal at the last minute, or we simply changed our mind and served cereal for dinner one night because we were too busy…and that gorgeous produce sits patiently waiting it’s turn to be loved.

Money saving tip– often the “ugly produce” is the cheapest and tastiest! Look for the boxes at markets on the fringes, at the back or marked “special.” 

In a shout out to my Basque family- we are featuring the very popular Marmitako (Tuna Stew). Before you turn your nose up at the concept of “Tuna Stew”- we are not talking about something out of a can! This fresh, vibrant dish is loaded in goodness and flavour! The free spirited Basque region in northern Spain is celebrated as having delicious distinct cuisine, cultural traditions and a language that predates Romance (Spanish/Portuguese/Italian) languages.

With a mesmerising coastline and beaches, seafood plays a key role in the dishes of the region.  Marmitako is listed as a MUST TRY, should you be fortunate enough to visit. Traditionally, eaten by Basque fishermen on their tuna fishing boats in the Cantabrian Sea, today, it is served in Basque homes (an now yours too!) and all through gastronomic societies.

A comforting dish, it’s homely, tasty, simple and something that my mother-in-law makes exceptionally well.

Each time that we visit my husband’s family in Spain, I request this dish. The sparkle in her eye ignites as she jumps at the chance to cook it.

My reasons to love this dish:

  1. It is packed with bright flavour.

  2. It’s a one-pot wonder meal.

  3. You can enjoy it in any type of weather. It’s not a heavy meal. Traditionally it is a summer meal as freshly caught Tuna is in season.  If the weather is warm, Marmitako can also be eaten lukewarm – it’s just as delicious!

  4. You can easily use tomatoes and capsicums which are on the older side – this does not affect the end result of the dish.

  5. The ingredients are cheap.

  6. You can easily make extra to freeze or to pop into the fridge (in fact- the flavours develop a bit if you let the pot sit for awhile).

Important Tip – adding the tuna right at the end, just as the stew is removed from heat, keeps the fish tender and moist.

What you need:

  1. 300 g fresh tuna – diced into 1 inch cubes

  2. 1 onion

  3. 1 green capsicum

  4. 1 red capsicum

  5. 3 large potatoes

  6. 1 clove garlic, minced

  7. 3-4 tomatoes, diced

  8. Fresh parsley

  9. Olive Oil

  10. ½ tsp cayenne flakes

  11. 1 tsp sweet pimenton

  12. 150 ml white wine

  13. Water

  14. Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Dice all the vegetables except for the potatoes.

  2. The potatoes need to be “broken”.  Breaking is done by inserting a knife into the potatoes a little and then twisting the blade so that is breaks off little chunks of potato.  This is important because it preserves the natural structure of the potato and helps the sauce become thick and starchy.

  3. Saute the onion with a good glug of olive oil until translucent,.

  4. Add capsicums.

  5. Add potatoes and garlic and tomatoes.

  6. Add white wine, and enough water to cover everything.  Add the cayenne flakes, sweet pimenton and season to taste.

  7. Cover and cook on low heat for 45-60 minutes and stir occasionally.

  8. Meanwhile, heat another glug of olive oil in a frypan and add the tuna in.  Seal them on all sides (i.e. they should be golden on the outside).  Remove from frypan and set these aside for later.

  9. Once the potatoes are cooked, add the cubes of tuna and cook for 2-3 minutes longer.

  10. Serve with fresh parsley.

Can’t you just imagine the smell of salt air, the feel of a cool coastal breeze and hear the call of seabirds and the waves crashing…

May the food you make, bring joy.


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