Queijinhos de atum

Queijinhos de atum - little tuna "cheeses"
When my main course arrives in a restaurant I often think would I have been happier having  two first courses? The idea of a starter, a main course and and then that pudding on Christmas day is all a bit much when, after an amusing and delightful first course,the middle course all too often turns out to be something designed to be weighty, rich and impressive.With this in mind I have created a fresh light starter, that will be kind to that already overworked tummy that is groaning from batterings of booze and buffets.These easy to prepare make-ahead little rounds of tuna would for me be a great introduction to what is to follow.I have called these Queijinhos (little cheeses) as they remind me of the little wheels of fresh cheeses that fill the back of deli cheese counters all over Portugal, and I have given them a texture not too far removed from a fresh cheese itself.Allow them to set in the fridge overnight and all you have to do the following morning is assemble a simple salad from ingredients you have pre-prepared in your fridge. cornichons,shredded chinese leaf, ribbons of pequillo peppers and a simple salsa of tomato red onion and coriander. Eh voila, pretty on the plate, not too filling and packed with lots of uncomplicated flavours.

Queijinhos de atum
with cornichons shredded chinese greens,ribbons of pequillo pepper 
and a simple salsa
Makes 6 x 150ml moulds

2 sheets of gelatine
1 x 385 g can of tuna in olive oil 
( use multiples of 140g cans for less or more people.1 can will make 2 portions)
1 tablespoon soya sauce
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
200ml double cream
For de sal
freshly ground black pepper

Extra virgin olive oil
1 small head of crisp chinese leaf 
pequillo peppers

FOR THE SALSA (adjust quantities according to number of servings)

10 tomatoes topped and tailed, finely chopped
2 large or 3 small red onions

3 small dried chillis crushed
2 cloves of garlic
Handful of chopped fresh coriander
salt and pepper
a good drizzle of olive oil
drizzle of balsamic

Mix all the ingredients in a bowl with a wooden spoon and leave to marinate overnight
Add another handful of chopped fresh coriander before serving

Drain the can of tuna and reserve the oil,you will need this later.Separate the tuna by whisking it with a fork.One by one add the soya sauce,balsamic and lemon juice.Beat the cream lightly to stiffen it slightly to a soft mousse like texture.Gradually add the cream to the tuna mix,folding it in carefully. 
Soften the gelatine for 5 minutes in cold water.Drain the gelatine squeezing as much water out of it as you can then dissolve it in in 1 tablespoon hot water.Let cool slightly and mix with the tuna.Season with Flor de sal and pepper to taste. Brush the moulds with the reserved tuna oil.Fill with the tuna mix and store in the refrigerator until the "cheeses"  set. Unmould the tuna "cheeses"  onto plates and surround them with julienned chinese leaf.Top with thinly sliced cornichons and julienned pequillo peppers.Decorate with a sprinkling of the salsa, and serve with some thin strips of toast.
Note: Use preferably silicone moulds,which allow easier unmoulding of the cheeses.


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