Canned food has moved out of the kitchen shadows and taken on a whole new importance in our pantry cupboards. Jessica Elliott Dennison has four delicious dishes that can be pulled together using a trusty tin.
Cook time 55 mins
The brilliant thing about this recipe is that your oven does all the hard work ; freeing you to blitz up a bright and zingy sambal. I've suggested using coconut chips, but you can use any toasted nuts or seeds. Ingredients
2 tbsp coconut, rapeseed or vegetable oil
2 tbsp mustard seeds
1 x 400 ml tin of coconut milk (ideally full-fat)
Thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger root, peeled and finely grated
3 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
2 tsp ground cumin
1½ tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp sea salt flakes
1 large cauliflower, outer leaves removed, cut into wedges through the stem
2 sweet potatoes, cut into wedges, skin-on
100g spinach, washed
1 x 400g tin of chickpeas in water, rinsed and drained
For the sambal
3 tbsp coconut chips/ dried shavings
Handful of coriander leaves
1 green chilli, deseeded
Juice and zest of 1 lime
¼ tsp sea salt flakes
1. First, preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F/Gas 6). Melt the coconut oil in a large, deep tray on the stove over a high heat, then add the mustard seeds and fry for 1-2 minutes, or until they begin to pop. If your stove isn't gas, this can be done in a frying pan, then transferred to the tray, or even done in the oven. Stir in the coconut milk, ginger, garlic, cumin, turmeric, salt, cauliflower and sweet potato. Transfer to the oven and roast for 40 minutes, stirring halfway through.
2. To make the sambal, blitz together the coconut chips, coriander (stalks and leaves), chilli, lime zest and juice, and salt with a few splashes of water in a food processor, until you get a rough texture. You can also do this by chopping and mixing everything by hand.
3. Remove the tray from the oven and set aside the cauliflower and sweet potato to make space for the spinach and chickpeas. Stir until the spinach is wilted, adding a splash of water if it's a bit dry.
4. Heat the chapatis, if you are serving them with your dish, in a warm oven or, carefully using tongs, hold over the gas flame on your cooker for a few seconds.
5. To assemble the dish, divide the curried chickpeas among four plates, top with the roasted cauliflower and sweet potato, then spoon over the sambal.
6. Serve with the chapatis on the side for mopping up the spiced roasting juices.
Cook time 1 hour
150 ml rapeseed or light olive oil, plus extra for finishing
4 onions, peeled and finely sliced
8 garlic cloves, peeled and finely sliced
1 large handful of sage leaves (roughly five stalks), the leaves picked
2 bay leaves (optional)
3 x 400 g (14 oz) tins of butter (lima) beans in water
500 ml (17 fl oz/2 cups) white wine
3 tsp sea salt flakes, plus extra to taste
Grated zest of 2 lemons
Toasted sourdough, to serve (optional)
Sage: oregano, rosemary or thyme
1. First, heat the oil over a medium heat in a deep, wide pan. Stir in the onion, garlic, sage leaves and woody stalks and bay leaves, reduce the heat to low and gently sweat for 20-25 minutes, stirring occasionally. You want the onion and garlic to take on a golden colour without burning. If they're catching, add a splash of water to loosen them.
2. Add the beans (including the juice from the tin), crushing a handful as you pour them in. Add the wine, salt and enough water to cover, then increase to a rapid boil. Reduce to a simmer for 20-25 minutes then add in most of the lemon zest and taste for seasoning; depending on the acidity of your white wine, you may want to add some lemon juice from your zested lemon. You may find you need to be quite generous with the seasoning.
3. Using a fork, fish out and discard the sage stalks and bay leaves, but you can leave in if you prefer. Crush a few more beans if you'd like a slightly thicker consistency.
4. To assemble, ladle the beans onto plates, pop a slice of toasted sourdough on each, then generously drizzle over some oil and a bit more lemon zest.
Cook time 45 mins
3 tbsp rapeseed, vegetable or light olive oil
3 garlic cloves, peeled and finely sliced
1 x 400g tin of chopped tomatoes
¼ tsp chilli flakes
Half an onion, peeled (not chopped)
50g butter (salted or unsalted)
1 tsp sea salt flakes, plus extra to taste
Pinch of sugar (optional)
150g (5 oz) dried fettuccine
50g (2 oz) feta
Onion: half a leek, banana shallot, red onion
Fettuccine: any pasta
Feta: salted ricotta, Parmesan, halloumi
Chopped tomatoes: passata, peeled fresh in-season tomatoes
1. Heat the oil and garlic in a medium saucepan over a medium heat for 1-2 minutes until fragrant and beginning to golden (take care not to burn the garlic). Add the tomatoes, chilli flakes, onion half, butter and salt. Bring to a simmer, then reduce over a low heat for 25-30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Splash in some water if it's sticking or reducing too much. Remove and discard the onion, then taste the sugo for seasoning. You may want to add a pinch of sugar, depending on the acidity of the tomatoes.
2. After 15 minutes of the sugo simmering, bring a large saucepan of water up to the boil and cook the fettucine until al dente, reserving a mugful of the cooking water. Using tongs, transfer the fettuccine into the tomato sauce, stirring in spoonfuls of the reserved cooking water until coated in the sauce.
3. Divide the pasta between two plates, then finely grate over the feta to finish.
Cook time 25 mins
This simple supper is inspired by khanom jeen - one of my favourite street-food lunches from the year I spent studying in Bangkok. In this version, I've kept the sauce pretty quick and simple, but you could fry off some white fish then flake it over the noodles too to make the meal even more of a feast. Some shredded grilled chicken or crispy tofu would be a nice addition.
1 small onion, peeled and roughly chopped
4 garlic cloves, peeled
Thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger root, peeled and then roughly chopped
2 tsp dried turmeric
¼ tsp chilli (hot pepper) flakes
1 x 400 ml (14 fl oz) tin of coconut milk (ideally full-fat)
1 tbsp rapeseed (canola) oil, vegetable or coconut oil
3 tsp fish sauce
2 tsp lemon or lime juice
1 tsp sugar
100g (3½ oz) rice vermicelli noodles
Handful of bean sprouts
Handful of dill fronds, roughly torn
Sprigs of micro red amaranth (optional)
2 gherkins (cornichons), finely sliced
4 radishes, finely sliced
Onion: spring onions (scallions), red onion, leek
Fresh ginger root: ground ginger
Vermicelli noodles: thin wholewheat noodles, thin egg noodles, rice
Fish sauce: a pinch of salt
1. First, put the onion, garlic, ginger, turmeric and chilli flakes in a food processor along with 2 tablespoons of the hard coconut cream from the top of the tin and 3 tablespoons of the thinner coconut milk. Blitz until a smooth paste then add to a medium non-stick saucepan along with therapeseed oil.
2. Heat on high, stirring the paste regularly in the oil for 2-3 minutes until fragrant and combined.
3. Pour in the remaining coconut milk plus a tin's worth of water, the fish sauce, lemon juice and sugar.
4. Meanwhile, boil a full kettle of water. Put the noodles in a large bowl then cover with the boiling water. Allow to sit for 2-3 minutes (check the packet instructions for exact timing), or until the noodles are soft, then drain.
4. Taste the sauce; you're looking for a nice balance of creamy coconut with salty, sweet, spicy and sour, so add more fish sauce, sugar, chilli flakes or lemon juice to taste if you wish.
5. To assemble, divide the noodles between two bowls, then pour the soupy sauce over the top. Pile up with bean sprouts, dill, red amaranth, gherkins and radishes, then eat straight away.
Extracted from Tin Can Magic by Jessica Elliott Dennison (Hardie Grant, £16.99). Photography © Matt Russell