Fancy pants tuna melt

I would love to say, "Everybody loves a good tuna melt", but that simply wouldn't be true. I know a lot of people who absolutely hate tuna melts. Usually it's because they can't stand canned tuna, due to its close likeness to cat food. 

People with such an aversion can now enjoy this classic sandwich too, thanks to this tuna conserva recipe I ganked straight from Gjelina's cookbook (a restaurant in Venice Beach, CA). Here, tinned fish is replaced with fresh tuna loin, which is poached in olive oil that has been infused with fennel, shallots, lemon, thyme, chilli, bay leaf and garlic. Essentially creating your own more palatable, preserved tuna. 

Once you've made the conserva you can treat it the same way you would normal canned tuna. Adding loads of fresh herbs, celery, capers, red onion, lemon juice and mayo to make a fancy as fuck tuna salad for your sandwich. 

We recently bought a new camera so we can document our adventures in the Club Sandwich kitchen. We'll be bringing you heaps more of these short instructional videos in the near future. Hope you enjoy it.

And for those of you that prefer written, step by step instructions. Here's the recipe...

fancy pants tuna melt

Serves 4 

for the tuna conserva 

2 cups of olive oil (use a cheap one)

1 shallot, halved 

1 small fennel bulb ,quartered. Leafy tips reserved for salad

1 garlic bulb, halved through equator 

1 whole dried chilli 

3 bay leaves 

2 sprigs of fresh thyme 

zest of 2 lemons 

500 grams of fresh tuna


  • Put everything except your tuna in a pot (large enough to hold your tuna), and simmer on medium-low to infuse the oil. Make sure you are not frying the vegetables. About 15 mins.
  • Add your tuna to the pot, making sure it is completely submerged in the oil. You may need to add a little extra oil, or slice your tuna in half so it's not so thick, to ensure it's submerged. Do whatever you gotta do. Simmer on medium-low for 15 minutes.
  • Turn off the heat and allow the tuna to cool completely in the oil. 

for the rest

Half a red onion, diced 

Juice of one lemon 

Handful of Italian flat leaf parsley, chives and reserved leafy fennel tips 

2 stalks of celery, diced 

1/4 cup of capers, minced 

1/4 cup of good quality mayo, plus extra for "buttering" the outside of your bread (for an interesting read on why it is better to use mayo instead of butter on the outside of your toasted sandwiches, check this article here)

2 cups of cheddar cheese, grated 

Nice loaf of grainy brown bread, sliced


  • Pull your tuna out of the oil and flake it. Mix together with onion, lemon juice, herbs, celery, capers, mayo, and salt and pepper. Add a dash of tabasco if you want to spice things up a little. 
  • Spread the outside of each slice of bread with mayo. On the bottom slice of each sandwich put some cheese, followed by tuna salad, and more cheese, before topping with another slice of bread (make sure the side of the bread that has been spread with mayo is facing outwards on the sandwich). 
  • Put a pan on medium heat and add your sandwich, cover with a lid or a light weight, to press it down a bit. Once the bottom layer of cheese has melted, and the bread has browned, flip and cook the other side.  
  • Slice, serve and enjoy.