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Slow-poached tuna salad with garam masala

Updated: Mar 22

I love tuna salad but have learned to make my own over the decades. The main reason for this is that commercial tuna salads are loaded with mayo and boring. Here is a recipe that I have developed over the years to suit my palate and bring tuna salad to the Indian audience.

The central aspect of this recipe is to slow poach the tuna; the garam masala should have time to infuse the meat, and the slow poaching makes for a soft and creamy salad. In addition, the salad has just a touch of mayo and is not overwhelmed by it.

This is a delicate dish. The salad is meltingly smooth, with a fresh crunch from the celery and a pop of sweetness from the raisins. The pickled jalapeno adds a much-needed bang of heat, but this salad is about subtle flavours and nuances of the delicate garam masala. This is a canapè that my guests love.

A big thank you to Kaveri Ponnappa for the fantastic photograph.

For more recipes from Zafar, click here.


1/2 lb tuna fillets

2 1-inch pieces of cinnamon sticks

3-4 green cardamom pods

2-3 whole cloves

1 bay leaf, cut into two pieces

4-5 dried red chillies

8-10 black peppercorns

1 teaspoon garam masala

1 teaspoon salt

Olive oil as needed

1 stick celery, finely sliced

1/4 cup yellow raisins

Salt, to taste

3 tablespoons mayonnaise

Pickled jalapenos

Sourdough or country bread, toasted if desired.

Preheat the oven to 175° F.

Rub the tuna fillet with garam masala powder and salt and layer it in the smallest container possible. Toss the whole spices over and under the fillet. Pour the olive oil over it until the fillet is completely submerged.

Bake in the oven for 2 hours undisturbed. Remove and cool.

Remove all the whole spices and discard. Place the fillet—it should be meltingly soft—into a small bowl. Add the mayonnaise, most of the olive oil the tuna was poached in, celery, raisins, and salt, and mash the tuna with your fingers until very smooth. Remove any bones that you feel between your fingers. Taste and adjust salt as needed. The mix should be creamy and moist; if not, add extra olive oil as needed.

Layer a thick portion of the salad on the bread/toast. Top with pickled jalapeno and serve immediately.

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