The Best Tuna Melt In The World

I feel we know each other well enough now that I can share one of my greatest secrets with you.

And trust me, Readership, this one's a doozy. Let's talk about tuna melts.

There are an awful lot of horrible sandwiches masquerading as the sainted melt out there. Bland, pappy and in some cases actively nasty. It bothers me that a sandwich with so much potential can be so poorly executed. A little thought, care and attention can deliver a tuna melt that would please the gods. I've been working on my method for quite some time, and it really delivers.

Let's start with the bit that often gets overlooked: the bread. I've never been impressed with the ubiquitous panini, and it's completely wrong for a tuna melt. Too fragile, and there's no crumb or surface for the flavours to soak into. Same goes for supermarket squishy white. No, you need a decent white bread. Something with a bit of substance, a bit of grunt. If you make your own, great. If not, grab a nice white bloomer from the bakers. Put that wholemeal loaf back, sunshine. Not for this sandwich.

Now for the tuna mix. Let's assume that you're using a good dolphin-friendly brand as you are a decent human being. In oil, please: the brined stuff just seems a bit flabby for my tastes. Tip a tin-full into a bowl, and add a very finely chopped spring onion and a handful of capers. Mix that up, then add a good squirt of mayo. Mix. Taste. Needs salt? Add salt.

Now for the clever bit. Stir in either a teaspoon of dill mustard sauce, the green, sweet-sharp stuff that goes so well with salmon, or a teaspoon of pesto. You'll get a different result, but the end result remains the same: a pop of flavour that lifts the whole thing. Don't add both, though. You want a pop, not a smack in the chops. I prefer the dill version, but the pesto lightens and lifts in a very pleasing way. I can't choose definitively between them, so I can only urge you try them both.

A note on cheese. The clue is in the name. You need something that'll melt. I ususally team a decent strong cheddar with a mild Dutch cheese like Leerdammer, which puffs up pleasingly under the grill. Austrian smoked cheese works remarkably well with the cheddar too. I don't recommend mozzarella makes for an overly complicated eat, and halloumi is too overwhelming. That goes for Parmesan as well. Feta or crumbly English cheese? No.

To assembly. Toast your bread, on one side only. Two slices per serving (duh). Then pile the tuna filling onto the untoasted side of one slice, top with cheese, then back under the grill, keeping the second slice warm. I like to add some butter to the soft side of the top slice at this point. Keep an eye on the grill. You don't want to burn the melt after you've spent this much time on it. Once the topping is golden and bubbling, it's done. Top with the other slice of buttered toast. Squish down, just enough to ooze some of the oily, savoury flavours into the bread. Slice in twain, and fill your face. Have a salad on the side if you like. I'd rather open a packet of salt and vinegar crisps or, if I want to make a meal of it, some potato wedges.

The end result is salt-sweet, oozy and packed with flavour. The crunch of the toast mixes with the soft filling in a way that just dances on the tongue. If I'm not having a burger and I want a sarnie, this is the one I plump for time and again. Make it like this and you'll never go near a bland panini again.



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Writer. Film-maker. Cartoonist. Cook. Lover.

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