7 Food Pros Share Their Tips on Cooking With Tinned Fish
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“There’s been an enormous tinned fish revolution over the last few years. Tinned fish was the perfect pandemic food and more people have cottoned on that it’s affordable, lasts indefinitely and is delicious. What we once knew as an ordinary everyday meal in a tin of tuna or sardines has grown into a vastly sophisticated world of variety from catch to cut to flavour. Producers have upped their game, too, offering a wealth of variety. Tinned fish has huge health benefits – it’s strong in Omega-3s, barely contains any carbs, is low calorie, full of B vitamins and is an excellent source of calcium. At home, I’d start with a basic range of tinned tuna, sardines, mackerel, anchovies, salmon and trout. These are fish more familiar to the palate that many of us have grown up eating baked, fried or out of a tin. These days, you can choose exactly how you like each fish – spicy or plain, herbaceous or woody, with lemon or roasted garlic…
“At home, I love making warm, dressed tinned cockles. Sweat 56g of minced garlic in a pan over a medium heat with a little extra virgin olive oil to infuse it with the garlic. Add 85ml of white wine and reduce by half. Add 85g of salted butter and swirl in the pan until melted. Once completely melted, add an entire tin of cockles and brine. The cockles are already cooked so you just want to warm them for a minute or so. Transfer the dressed cockles to a serving bowl and season with salt and pepper. Top with chopped parsley and freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano, then serve with warm crusty bread. Another favourite is salmon croquettes which my mother used to make for Sunday breakfast. Take a can of tinned salmon and add an egg, half a diced onion, a dash of Worcestershire sauce, a dash of mustard, a tablespoon of mayo, half a teaspoon of garlic powder, salt and white pepper to taste, and a handful of chopped coriander. Form into a patty and fry, then serve with a poached egg on top. Brilliant.
"Güeyu Mar from Spain is my very favourite brand now. I love its grilled tuna neck. I liken it to the deckle on a beautiful piece of prime rib. The quality is beyond anything I have ever tasted fresh or tinned; it just melts in the mouth. I’m also a big fan of Jose Gourmet and Ramón Peña. They have single-handedly changed the way we view tinned fish with their packaging and quality of product. That said, my secret cooking weapon is definitely anchovies. They dissolve in the heat and add a bomb of flavour that your guests will likely never identify, as well as saltiness and a lot of depth of flavour. I use it in salad dressings, pasta dishes and on top of burrata. I recommend the white ones, too.”
“Tinned fish has been steadily gaining interest amongst the foodie crowd for some time; it's big in Spain and Portugal, and it's now getting traction in the UK. Sardines and mackerel are delicious because they are oily, while mussels make a delicious snack with a bag of crisps. Then there’s good quality tuna and anchovies which are the most delicious thing on earth with just a little unsalted butter, onion and bread. I love sardines, as you can do so much with them – grilled on toast, blitzed into a pâté, made into butter to spread on toast, or stewed down for a pasta dish or quick Sri Lankan-style curry.
“For a simple dish, open a tin of cuttlefish in ink, warm it through and make some soft polenta with plenty of butter. Serve the cuttlefish on the polenta and sprinkle with chopped garlic and parsley – a Venetian classic in minutes. For a quick snack, I like to grill sardines in a pan and pop them on fresh bread with tomatoes, onion, a good drizzle of olive oil and plenty of salt. It’s worth remembering that tinned fish is all about the quality, so I look for fish without highly flavoured sauces and add what I like.”
“When looking for good-value store cupboard ingredients, tinned fish is a great place to start. Not only is it something you can stock up on, but it’s incredibly versatile. It’s a hard-working flavour enhancer and works well in a variety of dishes. Anchovies are an absolute powerhouse of flavour, like little salty explosions in the mouth. When preserved in oil, they can be eaten whole as snacks or with crisps and flatbreads. Sardines are another great tinned fish option and they come in a variety of flavoured oils, spring waters and sauces. One of my favourite dishes is a simple sardine puttanesca. To make this, pour the oil from a tin of sardines into a large, deep frying pan set over a medium heat. Add a chopped onion and cook for 8-10 minutes, stirring every so often, until softened. Add a clove of crushed garlic and half a teaspoon of chilli flakes, a 400g can of tinned tomatoes and a pinch of sugar. Fill the empty tomato tin halfway with water, swill and pour into the pan. Bring to a simmer, season, stir and leave to cook for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, cook 350g of pasta in a large pan of boiling salted water according to the pack instructions. Drain, reserving 50ml of the pasta water. Stir the sardines, olives and capers into the sauce. Tip in the pasta and reserved water and toss to coat. Sprinkle with basil or parsley and serve.”
“Sardines, anchovies, mackerel or pilchards… there’s a wide and wonderful range of fish you can fit in a tin. While it can’t always replicate the delicate flavours of fresh seafood, there’s still a whole lot to be said for a humble tin of fish. Tins last forever and can be used in so many ways, so I always have several to hand in my store cupboard. They’re especially helpful now, when the availability of fresh fish is inconsistent and expensive, and allow just about anyone to knock up a decent snack or delicious dinner in no time. If you want to take your canned fish to the next level, try sardines on top of a toasted naan instead of bread for a moreish, deeply flavourful fish dinner.”
“Tinned fish is typically caught in the wild using sustainable fishing practices and then canned, which means it has a longer shelf life and reduces waste. Tuna is ideal in salads and pasta dishes, while tinned salmon has a rich buttery flavour, making it a great option for spreads and dips. Mackerel has a slightly smoky flavour that pairs well with bold seasonings like lemon, garlic and herbs, and it's also delicious grilled. As a chef, I have a soft spot for sardines. I love their mild and slightly salty flavour. One of my favourite recipes is a simple tinned fish salad. To make this dish, combine drained and flaked tinned fish (I like to use sardines), diced celery, chopped red onion and lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve on a bed of greens for a quick and healthy lunch. To elevate tinned fish at home, try incorporating bold and flavourful ingredients such as herbs, spices, and acidic elements like lemon or vinegar. You can also try toasting bread and spreading it with a mixture of tinned fish, mayonnaise, herbs and spices. Then, simply grill the sandwich until it's crispy and golden brown. Another option is to mix the tinned fish with pasta, diced tomatoes, fresh basil and a squeeze of lemon for a simple and delicious pasta dish.
“Tinned crab is also worth buying, as it’s a convenient and delicious option for those who love crab meat but don't have access to the fresh stuff. I like to make crab cakes. Simply mix tinned crab meat, breadcrumbs, a couple of eggs, herbs and spices and form into cakes. Pan-fry until they are crispy and golden and serve with lemon aioli for dipping. Look out for brands like Wild Planet, Crown Prince and Bumble Bee, all of which are known for using sustainable fishing practices and producing high-quality, flavourful fish.”
“Tinned fish can be used to make a quick pâté, a really good pasta sauce or elevate a salad. It’s also ideal for a quick protein packed snack. I mostly use tinned fish in olive oil. If it’s packed in extra virgin olive oil, I will use this for dressings and emulsions as it has an incredible flavour. My favourites are sustainably sourced tuna and albacore tuna, tuna belly, anchovies and sardines. They can quickly transform a plain salad into a delicious substantial meal. I like to use Ortiz and travel around the north of Spain to visit small factories where you can buy incredible tinned products. If you’re short on time, create an emulsion using the oil from your tinned fish (ideally tuna), sherry vinegar and seasoning. Flake the fish over some good quality tomatoes, add flaky sea salt, fresh herbs and croutons and serve with the dressing poured over.”
“Tinned mackerel is my favourite type of fish because of its unique sweet and salty flavours, allowing for a greater combination of flavours in dishes. For example, a mackerel, mango and green leaf salad is fresh and delicious. To make this, mix two tins of mackerel, half a chopped ripe mango, a handful of peanuts, the juice of a lime and a tablespoon of olive oil in a bowl. Add in a handful of cherry tomatoes and whatever salad leaves you like, and top with more lime juice. I like the brand Princes because of its availability in grocery stores and big supermarkets.”
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