"A person cooking is a person giving: Even the simplest food is a gift."

Laurie Colwin

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Tarty Tuesdays: Classic Tuna Pie

It’s summer in the southern hemisphere, and while that means a barbeque to many, if not most people, to me that’s just too restrictive.  Breakfast?  Outside!  Lunch?  Outside!  Dinner outside?  Heck yes!  And morning and afternoon tea too, with a paperback novel and my feet up on a neighbouring seat.

I don’t need “outdoor food” to eat out on my lovely and shady deck – I have table and chairs, after all, which surely allows for a degree of civilization even if aforementioned table and chairs were bought on sale from Bunnings – but it helps if the food is relaxed and uncomplicated.  I don’t want to worry about its presentation, or it going cold if there’s a beautiful breeze flowing.

A savoury pie or tart, served cold, is perfect.  My beautiful, salsa-dancing cousin Silvia, who is an instinctual goddess in the kitchen, has a hand that turns everything delicious.  Last time I was at hers and my aunt’s house in Buenos Aires and stayed unexpectedly to dinner, she went into the kitchen, and refusing my offers of help, turned out dish after delicious dish in record time.  Everything was worth going on bended knee for, but surprisingly, what I wanted seconds of was this tuna pie, which she informed me was “simple but so classic”.  So classic, in fact, that I was embarrassed to admit I’d never tasted it, much less made it.  But I’ve been daydreaming about it ever since, and turned one out a few days ago for our New Year’s Day picnic.  It was almost as good as hers.

Part of the reason why Silvia was able to make the pie so quickly was the fact that she had store-bought discos de tarta on hand, but even without it, it’s still super-quick to make.  Nidia’s Tart Crust, below, is made in about two minutes with a minimum of fuss and mess (funnily enough, it is also the closest recipe to store-bought disco de tarta pastry that I have yet made) and makes for a pie that’s delicious hot or cold and will cut beautifully.

As an aside, I’m a huge fan of cut-and-come-again things during the summer.  Because of the heat-induced sluggishness, you want to take advantage of the times when you actually feel like cooking to cook something you can keep for when you won’t.  A whole ham – ubiquitous at this time of year – kept ready to go wrapped in damp muslin in the fridge, a boned, stuffed and roasted cold chicken, a hunk of muffuletta or pan bagna, a tart… these are things that can be waiting for you to approach knife in hand.  And go on – take that slice outside.  The cicadas are singing, the dog-eared paperback novel is waiting, and the world can just wait for a while. 


1 x recipe Nidia’s Tart Crust (see below)
1 onion, thinly sliced
1 red pepper (capsicum), cut into fine dice
2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 x 425g. tin tuna chunks in brine, drained
1 cup fresh or frozen peas
1/2 tsp. oregano
Salt, pepper, and chili to taste
3 eggs
150ml. light cream, or half-and-half (milk and cream)

1.  Preheat oven to 180oC.  Brush inside of tart/flan pan with Baker's Secret or line with baking paper.  Make up Nidia’s Tart Crust.  Roll out 2/3 of it and use it to line pan.  Prick several times with a fork, brush with some of the eggwash, and place in ‘fridge while you make the filling.
2.  Sauté onion and red pepper in olive oil until soft.  Transfer to a bowl and add tuna and peas, and season with salt, pepper, and chili to taste.  Spoon filling into tart crust.  Lightly whisk together eggs and light cream or half-and-half, and pour over filling.  Roll out remaining pastry and use it to top pie, crimping the edges together.  Cut out a vent with a sharp knife or kitchen scissors to allow steam to escape, and brush with egg wash.
3.  Bake in lower shelf of oven for ten minutes (this is for the base to firm up nicely), then transfer to highest shelf and bake until golden – 25-30 minutes approx.  Cool at least to warm before serving.  


Oh, we do get in a rut with our pastry, don’t we?  It’s puff and shortcrust, shortcrust and puff.  Yes, they are versatile, but they’re not always what you want.  First and foremost, both pastries are very, very rich, which might make a pie or tart out of the question for you, but also might not suit a more rustic filling, or suit an occasion, such as a picnic, when you want something a little sturdier.

Nidia, from Recetas Simples y Deliciosas, has a wonderful recipe that not only fits the bill, but is also done in two shakes.  There’s no cutting in butter, no working with ice-cold ingredients, no worrying about working the dough too much, and no banging around.  You can make it ahead of time if you like, but it’s so quickly and easily made that you’ll probably find it’s not necessary.  And because it’s a cross between pastry and dough, it is also – joy of joys – fairly low in fat.  All up, this recipe is reason enough to make pies and tarts on a regular basis, I reckon.

Thank you Nidia for letting me repost the recipe, this time in English.

250g. plain flour
1 tsp. salt
1 egg
1/4 cup (60ml) milk
3 tbsp. (45ml) vegetable oil

1.  Combine flour and salt in a bowl.  Make a well in the middle and add remaining ingredients.  Gradually mix flour into the well to obtain a soft dough that does not stick to your hands.  Wrap in plastic and allow to rest for 30 minutes if you have time, but if not, proceed with the recipe.


  1. Delicious and easy - does it get any better? Love the ease. Love the ingredients (I can find them all or have them) and the crust is so wonderfully do-able. Many thanks for the visit - look forward to more of your recipes.

  2. Glad you like it, Claudia. Just as good is the fact that that tin of tuna could be... well, anything, really!

  3. I've never heard of or had Tuna Pie, but it does look wonderful. A relaxed, easy dish, as you say.

  4. It is just one step removed from an Empanada Gallega, ie. Galician-style pie. An Empanada Gallega can have all sorts of fillings, but tuna is a common substitute for the traditional Lent filling of salt cod.

    And there you have it. Learn something new every day! :)


So! Whaddya reckon?