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Elisabeth Luard's Marmitakko

Elisabeth Luard's Marmitakko

posted on 21 March 2017 by admin

"A trawlerman’s one-pot meal of potatoes and fish - traditionally bonito, a member of the mackerel family known as the poor-man’s tuna  – the dish takes its name from the round-bellied pot, marmita, in which it was cooked in the galley at sea. There are dozens, possible hundreds, of variations on the recipe – some include garlic and chilli, others omit the tomato – but the spirit of the dish survives in the Sociedades Gastronomicas Viscainas, men-only cooking-clubs established by Basque sailors home from the sea.  If you’re lucky enough to be invited to join the men at table (women permitted), you’ll be told in strictest confidence that such dishes - and the freedom to toast the cooks in the young white wines and fresh cider of the region - provide an escape from the domestic tyranny imposed by wives unused to husbands who love to cook for themselves."


Serves 4 as a main dish

1k bonito or tuna or de-boned mackerel steaks, diced into bite-sized pieces


1 wineglass olive oil

1k onions, finely sliced in half-moons

500g canned or 2-3 large ripe tomatoes, skinned and chopped

2 level tablespoons pimenton

1k yellow-fleshed potatoes (if white, add a pinch of saffron), chunked

Salt and pepper

To finish

4 thick slices sourdough bread

Garlic clove

Olive oil for rubbing


Salt the fish-chunks and set aside.

            Heat the oil in a cooking pot till a faint blue haze rises. Add the onions and leave to sizzle gently until they soften and gild - don’t let them brown. Add the tomatoes and pimenton and bubble up, mshi.

            Add the potatoes, turn them in the oily juices, and add just enough cold water (plus saffron, if using) to submerge everything.  Bring the pot slowly to the boil and cook, loosely covered, until the potatoes are nearly tender but still hold their shape – 15-20 minutes. Add the cubed fish, bubble up again, turn down the heat, cover and cook for a further 5-6 minutes - no more or the fish will toughen.  Serve in deep soup-plates, with thick slabs of bread rubbed with garlic and oil and blistered on a dry pan – the surface should blacken a little.