Tuna Chickpea Salad with Tangy Dressing

A friend of mine emailed me yesterday to ask for a suggestion of what is good dish to take when you have been asked to “bring a plate”. Something that doesn’t need much work once you arrive at the venue, and can be transported easily having been made in advance. Excellent request, as who isn’t faced with this situation at some point? She wanted something healthy…and she came to the right place!

This tuna chickpea salad is one I have unashamedly stolen from my mother and it is always a hit no matter where it is served. It makes for ideal lunch food on weekends and a wonderful dish to take to a friends place to contribute as part of a dinner/BBQ etc. If you are taking it out to be eaten elsewhere, it can all be made in advance but don’t dress it until you are just about to serve.

The chickpeas I have found work best are those that come in jars, not cans. They tend to be softer, and less ‘woody’. My all-time favorite is ‘Navarrico’ garbanzo (chickpeas), a Spanish brand stored in water and salt which are unbelievably tasty. The tuna I use is canned, and for this the best option is tuna in olive oil, that you drain. The olive oil keeps the tuna moist and tender. The best tuna I have ever used for this dish is Sirena Chili Tuna. Sadly, it can only be found in Australia (I have searched and googled them to death, even called the company when I moved when I moved to London to see if they had a distributor here!) For the Aussies out there, Coles or Woolworths, and any italian deli will have it. Sirena is so good, that any time my mum goes to Sydney she stocks up and literally takes over 20 jars back to New Zealand with her, solely for use in this dish, and much to the amusement of the boys in customs en route home. I find the slight chili heat in the tuna lends itself perfectly to the tangy and sweet dressing. If not in Australia, like me, just find a good quality tuna that hasn’t been broken up (eg in slices) or it tends to get too bitsy in the salad.

For the salad:

  • 1 large jar of chickpeas (approx 650gm), drained
  • 1/2 spanish/red onion, very finely sliced
  • 1 red capsicum, sliced
  • 1 orange/yellow capsicum, sliced
  • large bundle of beans, blanched, microwaved or sauteed until just cooked
  • 1 avocado, diced into large chunks
  • large handful baby spinach or rocket, or both
  • 20 cherry tomatos, halved
  • 400gm tuna in olive oil, drained
For the Tangy Dressing:
  • Juice of 1.5 lemons
  • 12-15 large mint leaves, finely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2.5 tablespoons sweet chili sauce
  • salt and pepper

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Drain the chickpeas in a colander and rise them well. After this is done, use the colander to drain the tuna of the olive oil. In  large salad bowl combine all the salad ingredients.
Using the jar the chickpeas came in, combine the sweet chilli, mint, salt and pepper and lemon juice. Shake well. Add the olive oil and shake again. Taste, and add more salt and pepper if necessary.
Just before serving, gently toss the salad with the dressing. Crack a little fresh pepper on the top of the salad, and garnish with a fresh mint leaf or two if you wish. If you are making this for a dinner party/BBQ I would use double the chickpeas to fill it out..or while you are at it…you may as well double the whole thing, as it will go!
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