Smoked Tuna and Sea Salt Butter on Ile d’Yeu

How could I never have come across smoked tuna? I didn’t even know about it until this week.

Me, coming from a country where they smoke everything that comes out of the sea, and my husband, who comes from a place where they hand smoke and sun-dry anything that is good enough to eat roasted. Neither of us had ever heard of this insanely delicious, tenderly moist, delicately treated smoked tuna.

And the children loved it.

Ile d’Yeu is a tiny island off the West coast of France. You take a train to Nantes, then drive for one hour, then a ferry-ride for 45 minutes when the tide is right, and you arrive at a beautifully wind-swept island, almost surreal in its uncluttered peacefulness, serenity and pristine cleanliness. Here, almost everyone rides a bike rather then drive (there are only a few cars on the island), does their daily morning shopping at a farmer’s market by the port, and buys their fish either right off the boat or from the one fishmonger on the island. The visit to the island is worthy of its own post. It is a hidden gem. Just like its smoked tuna.

Ile d’Yeu used to be the main cod port of France, it then became known for its tuna fishing (they net a 3rd of all tuna caught in France) and used to have its own tuna canning and smoking factories. It has since closed all of their industrial compounds, and now only does small scale tuna smoking for the local community. You can’t even buy the stuff in the mainland nor in Paris.

Tuna as mega-amounts of DHA Omega 3, as well as Vitamin B12, both incredibly nourishing for brain function. It also contains protein, calcium, magnesium, Vitamin A and potassium. Regular consumption of tuna (more than 140 g per week) should be avoided since tuna also contains high amounts of mercury.

I know there are some who are concerned about smoked foods for children. The process of smoking produces chemicals in the meat/fish/vegetable, some of which are carcinogens – hydrocarbons which inhibit the meat/fish/vegetable to break down and spoil, giving it the smoky flavor. This is the same for all foods which are grilled on open fire, barbecued or grilled on charcoal. I share the view of several nutritionists who say that it has to be consumed in moderation, but grilled/smoked foods are safe for children. The general warning is to not have a child or a woman in her childbearing age consume more than 140 g per week of smoked foods. I think your child will be safely out of that range.

So coming back to our meal – I shared the moist and tender smoked tuna, lightly smoked, with the kids, who ate it with their mini ziti tossed in sea salt studded butter (that is another item worth its own post), grilled yellow squash, broccoli and halibut. The tuna has a powerful flavor, so it was enough to have two thin slices which could be mashed and eaten with the pasta.

It is difficult to obtain smoked tuna, but the same smoky flavor is a great addition to a meal, especially since many of the smoked fish is oily fish from cold waters – smoked mackerel, smoked trout, smoked salmon, even smoked oysters – are all great options. And so simple to serve – just cut up the filets and toss them with pasta and olive oil or butter.

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