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Friday 19 December 2008

Hannah Murray Book Show

Yesterday I did a telephone interview for the Hannah Murray Book Show on Radio Europe Mediterráneo - . I spoke to Lindy Jordan and Allan Tee about The Maze of Cadiz and the Peter Cotton series. is the largest English language network in Spain covering most of the mainland, the Balearics and the Canaries. The Book Show – every Thursday lunch time – is very lively with a wide variety of books and guests – well worth checking out. Lindy is very active on the Costa del Sol and has her own website at

We talked about the ‘bi-focal’ vision that living in another country can give you, about Cadiz, Franco, historical memory, the concept of the hero and the importance of characters’ voices in the construction of a novel.

I like to think of Peter Cotton, rather frail now, ninety next year, living somewhere in the south of Spain.

Wednesday 3 December 2008

Cotton’s Tastes of Cadiz – Atún Encebollado

I first tasted Atún Encebollado, literally ‘Onioned Tuna’, about twenty five years ago. It was served as a tapa with a glass of chilled fino in a small bar tucked away in a little side street in Cadiz. I must have looked hungry because the bartender gave me a particularly generous portion. It was so delicious – like fresh, comforting Spanish home cooking – that when I was feeding Cotton in The Maze of Cadiz, I had to include this. Fortunately, I asked the bar owner at the time how to make it. This was his version – and, as far as I know, the traditional way it is made in Cadiz:


  • ½ kilo fresh tuna cut into largish chunks (Do not be tempted to make this dish with tinned tuna.)
  • a large onion
  • a clove of garlic
  • some strips of green pepper (optional)
  • a bay leaf
  • a little grated nutmeg
  • a glass of dry white wine/ dry sherry
  • black pepper
  • salt
  • some chopped flat-leafed parsley/ the finely chopped green part of a couple of spring onions
  • some good quality olive oil


  • Heat a little oil in a pan and add the sliced onion (and slices of green pepper if used), garlic, bay leaf, nutmeg, black pepper and a little salt
  • Cook gently until the onions are soft and just beginning to take colour. Very gentle cooking is essential here to develop the flavour of the sofrito.
  • Add the chunks of fresh tuna, and turn up the heat. Shake the pan and stir the tuna gently from time to time until it is sealed and beginning to take colour.
  • Keeping the heat high, add the white wine/dry sherry. Shake the pan to distribute and evaporate the alcohol.
  • Add the parsley/ finely chopped spring onion stalks. Simmer for about five/ten minutes, depending on the size of the chunks – no more or the tuna will go dry. Add a little water if necessary. Then turn off the heat and leave covered for a few minutes. This will complete the cooking process and keep the tuna moist.
  • Taste and adjust seasoning.

    To be really authentic this should be served with fried slices of potatoes – which are sometimes then added to the pan of tuna. But it can also be served simply with a dressed green salad.

Atún Encebollado con Tomate

This is an alternative version of the above recipe.

  • Make the sofrito as above, including the strips of green pepper, and adding a pinch of cumin instead of the nutmeg. Instead of the onion you can use a handful of spring onions, reserving some of the finely chopped green part (This works particularly well with this version)
  • When the onion mixture is beginning to take colour, add two medium-sized chopped tomatoes (not from a tin) and continue to cook gently, stirring, until the sofrito is of a saucy consistency and has developed flavour.
  • Add the tuna and turn up the heat. Cook, throw in the green spring onion choppings, and leave to rest as above.

    This is great to eat hot or cold.