Radicchio cups with borlotti beans and tuna

A favourite store-cupboard standby graduates to a casual first course.

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While tuna and beans has been a store-cupboard standby all my life, and a very good one at that, it was never something I would think of to serve if people were coming for dinner. After all, you make it by opening a couple of cans, and while I love a low-effort dinner, that would feel like going to extremes of laziness verging on neglect.

But it is a classically good combination, enlivened by an acidic note of either lemon juice or wine vinegar, and spruced up with loads of parsley. I had the thought that it would be possible to add it to my entertaining repertoire by serving spoonfuls of it in cups made from radicchio leaves, to be rolled up and munched on as a casual first course with drinks in the kitchen.

This is the result, and it has been an unqualified hit. The combination of crisp, bitter leaves of radicchio and creamy, soft beans and tuna, simply dressed, is as delightful to look at as it is to eat. You could use any bitter leaf that’s around – endive, chicory or witlof are all wonderful, too. I like borlotti beans for their colour here, but happily use any similar bean, such as cannellini or flageolet.


Radicchio cups with borlotti beans and tuna

 

Makes 6–8.

400g (14 oz) tinned borlotti beans
1 small head radicchio
1 tablespoon extra avirgin olive oil
1 teaspoon lemon juice or red wine vinegar
sea salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper
150g (5 oz) tuna, preferably packed in olive oil, drained
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped

Rinse the borlotti beans but don’t drain them too well. Tip them, with the water that clings to them, into a small saucepan. Warm them over medium heat for a minute to two, which will help them absorb the dressing. Remove from the heat and set aside.

Trim the stem from the radicchio and peel off leaves to create as many “boats” as you need, arranging them on a serving platter.

In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil and lemon juice (or vinegar) and season with salt and pepper. Fork the tuna into the pan of beans, pour over the dressing and add the chopped parsley. Toss to combine, taste and adjust seasoning as required, and put a spoonful of beans into each leafy cup. Serve immediately.