For the first year and a half after I moved to France, I lived without a stove or a refrigerator. It may seem an odd predicament, but in France, it is fairly common for apartments not to be furnished with appliances. Living without such modern conveniences was not without its challenges, but it actually didn’t really bother me much at all.
I lived with another chef at the time and many people were shocked to find that the two of us, who literally ate, slept and lived for food, could go without what most Western humans consider to be the most basic of kitchen essentials.
Not only did we survive, honestly, we thrived, because living without a stove or a fridge doesn’t make eating impossible – it makes it more fun.
We would go to the market on our days off and buy only the amount of fresh food we could consume that day or that wouldn’t spoil at room temperature. There wasn’t any need for us to buy refrigerated items in gigantic quantities and we were working so much that anything family-sized would likely have met a slow death in the back of the crisper, had we actually had one, anyway.
We did, however, eventually get ourselves a kettle. Oh, the glorious things one can cook with a kettle! Boiled eggs, couscous, vermicelli noodles … all of which were incredible additions to the endless salad-like and sandwich-esque creations we would dream up. Add to these a can of beans or lentils, or even some fresh fish, plus the most basic of pantry items for seasoning (olive oil, apple cider vinegar, salt and pepper) and you are seriously set for cooking.
These days, my slightly more established (and heavily stocked with refrigerated condiments) self looks back on this period with both fondness and bewilderment. I am impressed that we were able to make so much despite having so little to work with. I sometimes wonder how I would fare now, were I to find myself in a similar position, but I also know that I would certainly be up for the challenge.
With this in mind, I have put together a recipe that doesn’t require a stove or a refrigerator, assuming you buy only what you will consume. In some ways, one could even call it a raw dish, although of the more omnivorous variety.
More than anything, it is delicious. Which means having more for now, and less to put in your “non-existent” refrigerator for later, is a good thing.
Tuna Belly with Raw Artichokes, Sundried Olives and Mint
Ingredients (Serves 4, as a light appetizer)
- 2 lemons, juice of both and zest of 1
- 6 fresh spring artichokes, the smallest you can find
- 10 fresh mint leaves, chiffonade (rolled and sliced very thinly)
- ¼ cup sundried olives, pitted
- 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 300 grams sushi-grade line-caught tuna belly, thinly sliced
- 2 pinches Espelette chili pepper
- 1 teaspoon fleur de sel or Maldon sea salt for seasoning
Cut one of the lemons in half and squeeze the juice into a small bowl of cold water.
Pull and snap the outer, darker leaves from each artichoke until you reach the thinner, pale yellow leaves closer to the heart. Slice off the top quarter of each artichoke and place into the lemon water to prevent it from oxidizing.
Trim the very end of each stem and then peel the fibrous outer layer of the stem using a small paring knife, a turning knife, or a vegetable peeler until you reveal the more tender inner part.
Slice each artichoke in half lengthwise and scoop out the hairy choke with a small spoon. Slice each half lengthwise as thinly as you can. Keep the slices submerged in the lemon water until ready to serve.
When ready to serve, strain and pat dry the artichoke slices and place in a bowl with the mint chiffonade, dried olives, olive oil, lemon zest and lemon juice. Season with fleur de sel and black pepper to taste. Spoon over the slices of raw tuna belly. Garnish with Espellette and a little more fleur de sel and serve immediately.
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