White Bean and Tuna Fish Salad with Lemon Pepper Dressing

This is my version of an old Italian favourite, and I think the addition of a sharp lemon dressing and some buttery rocket leaves gives a lovely edge.

If you forget to soak the beans overnight, you can rinse them with cold water and place them in a saucepan, cover with plenty of water, bring up the boil for 10 minutes, then turn off the heat and leave them to soak for 2 hours. Next, bring them up to the boil and boil gently for 1½-2 hours, or until the beans are tender.

The Delia Online Cookery School: Watch how to prepare garlic in our video, press the recipe image to play.

A picture of Delia's Complete How to Cook

This recipe is from Delia's Complete How to Cook. Serves 4 as a main course or 6 as a starter

  • method
  • Ingredients


Begin this the night before you are going to make the salad by placing the beans in a bowl and covering them with cold water to soak.

Next day, drain the beans, then put them in a large saucepan, cover with fresh water and bring them up to simmering point. Boil for 10 minutes, then cover and simmer gently for 1¼-1½ hours, or until tender. Meanwhile, empty the tuna fish into a sieve fitted over a bowl and allow it to drain, reserving the oil.

Then, to make the dressing, first crush the garlic and salt using a pestle and mortar till the garlic is pulverised, then work the mustard powder into this. Now push the mixture to one side, add the peppercorns and crush these fairly coarsely.  You can watch how to prepare garlic in our Cookery School Video on this page.

Next add the grated lemon zest, along with the lemon juice, olive oil and 3 tablespoons of the reserved tuna oil (the rest of the tuna oil can be discarded). Whisk everything together very thoroughly, then, when the beans are cooked, drain them, rinse out the saucepan and return the beans to it. Now pour the dressing over while the beans are still warm, give everything a good stir and season generously.

To serve the salad, arrange three-quarters of the rocket leaves over the base of a serving dish, spoon the beans on top and add the tuna fish in chunks. Then add the rest of the rocket leaves, pushing some of the leaves and chunks of tuna right in amongst the beans. Finally, arrange the onion slices on top and serve straight away, allowing people to help themselves. 

Warm, crusty ciabatta bread would be an excellent accompaniment.

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