Fish out of water

Tuna — raw or canned — is a quick and good value source of protein.

Fish out of water

Many of us buy canned tuna for its heart protective omega fatty acids but most of these are lost during the canning process when the tuna is steamed at a high temperature. We need to look elsewhere for our recommended two a week of oily fish.

Numerous reports about the mercury content of large fish, such as tuna, show that the quantity may be quite small. However, large fish tend to retain larger amounts of pollutants than smaller fish.

The general advice is that pregnant women should consume no more than 180g of large fish a week, so it’s best to include canned tuna in calculations to be safe.

Canned tuna still has the benefit of being a satisfying source of protein which as a lunch option keeps us going for hours, especially if sandwiched with wholemeal bread or in a salad with hardboiled egg, a few olives and grated carrot.

Line and pole caught tuna is preferable to that caught in huge trawlers which can be the cause of depleting stocks. But fish can still be caught this way on a huge scale, so not quite as environment conscious as it could be.

This week we look at eight different brands of tuna to see if they measure up to their price tags.

Palacio de Oriente Bonito del Norte in oil, 130g €3.60.

Bonito del Norte from Spain usually denotes a level of quality and this one is good with a decent fillet of very pale fish tasting slightly sweet and salty. Good quality olive oil makes this white tuna a good buy. Available from FromIago, Cork’s English Market and other retailers. Use in Nicoise and other salads. Good for lunch in pitta or baguette.

Score: 8.25

Ortiz Bonito del Norte in olive oil white tuna 112g €5.

Light in colour, density and flavour, this is a good one for a salad or stuffing roasted red peppers. The light olive oil is worth saving and using later. Expensive, it would be a waste to mash it for sandwiches. However, it’s worth it if served to one or two people on toast or in a winter salad. Bonito del Norte often has quite a high fat content which adds to its luxurious texture. From The Real Olive and others.

Score: 8

Ocean Rise tuna in oil, Aldi, 200g €1.19.

Quite dark flesh, typical of Pacific tuna, this has a good, firm texture and fairly good flavour. The sunflower oil is not too greasy. The label says the tuna is pole and line caught in Mauritius. Line caught seems better than extensive net fishing in which dolphins may be trapped and killed. Good product for the price.

Score: 7.5

Pescamar tuna in oil, 110g €1.10.

This Spanish tuna was a little brown on the outside and more pink inside. The oil was light, a little salty, nothing special, but fair value. Good for mashing with the oil in sandwiches. From Mr Bells Cork’s English market and other outlets.

Score: 7.5

Princes Tuna steak in brine, 160g €2.50.

A product of Spain, the fish is quite pink and a little salty due to the brine used in the tin instead of oil, and so a little lighter for those watching calories. Available in supermarkets.

Score: 6.75

John West Tuna with lime and black pepper dressing, 85g €1.89.

We liked this idea of a single portion, ready dressed in a pouch that is easy to open at work or school. Produced in Thailand, the tuna was quite tough, had a dark colour and not a lot of flavour. The sauce lacked any zing of lime or even black pepper with a gloopy texture from the addition of modified tapioca starch and xanthan gum. A good idea, but not such a good product.

Score: 5

Dunnes Stores tuna chunks in brine, 185g 89c.

Product of Spain, the tin here looks quite a big bigger than the slice of tuna inside, but it’s still a decent chunk. While there is a lot of brine, it isn’t very salty. Texture of the flesh is nicely meaty. Good value for sandwiches.

Score: 7.25

Marks & Spencer tuna in spring water, 200g €1.89.

Skipjack tuna from the Maldives is dark in colour, and despite being packed in spring water, is quite salty. Nice solid chunks of tuna, but even with the saltiness, quite bland.

Score: 6.75

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