In the can
Kathie Auton - 29 January 2013
I was already getting these recipes down on paper when the mackerel news hit the headlines last week. In case you missed it, the gist is that mackerel, even dear old reliable mackerel, are no longer sustainable. But fear not. Sardines still are. Phew.
A recent post of mine for was all about how frozen sustainable fish is the friend of the family cook. But if even a spot of digging around in the freezer is feeling taxing after all the busyness of the festive period and you don’t want to get your hands cold, perhaps I could suggest a ferret around in the tin cupboard instead? Yes, it’s 2013 and tinned fish is the new frozen fish.
Tinned fish is great. Like frozen fish, you have a great range of healthy, affordable, sustainable, Omega-y goodness within your grasp. And on the Omega-wosit front, don’t get bogged down. There is much reading available on the internet about tinned fish, oily fish and Omega 3, but what you really need to know is as simple as this:
- Most of us should be eating more oily fish
- Tuna is not an oily fish once it’s been tinned
- Other oily fish are still oily fish after canning, for example, salmon, sardines and pilchards.
That’s it. I cannot get more aerated than that on the subject, there are simply too many sources of parental food-guilt already without getting het up about the lack of fresh, line-caught mackerel on your weekly food plan. In fact one of my first ever blog posts was about getting oily fish into children and since then I’ve turned to tinned oily fish as my mainstay source with a singular lack of guilt or worry.
From a sustainability point of view you’re on to a real winner with tinned fish too. There are many, many types of MSC certified tinned fish available in the supermarket. In fact, many of the supermarket’s own-brands offerings, especially sardines, are MSC certified. Fish4Ever are a good source too and have really good range.
Obviously, as I said in my last post if you have an easily achievable source of fab, fresh, sustainable fish then use it, but don’t ignore the tinned goodness either, especially if it means that oily fish makes it into your weekly menu. Tinned fish is brilliant to cook with too because, being already cooked, it’s quick and easy and you don’t need any fish-preparing skills.
So here are some simple dishes to try. I’ve not included tinned tuna, because of it not being an oily fish, but it could easily be used in place of the tinned salmon suggested below.
A very simple idea from one of the ancient cookery books I like to gather. The book doesn’t even consider the idea that you might have access to anything as outlandish as fresh salmon. This is a quick, tasty lunch dish and if your kids like it it would be good as a lunch box sandwich filler. It’s also pink, just in case that helps.
- 1 lemon
- 170g tin of MSC certified wild red or pink salmon
- Ground black pepper, ground mace or nutmeg – a hearty pinch of each
- About 4 tablespoons of butter, melted
- Cut the lemon into 4 wedges
- Pick over the salmon for skin and bones if necessary. Give it a good stirring mash with the spices, one wedge worth of lemon juice and 2 tablespoons of the butter. You could also add a spoon or two of cream cheese if you like.
- Press into a dish or dishes and pour over the rest of the butter (or skip this bit if you want to serve straight away)
- Chill, then serve spread on toast with the rest of the lemon wedges
Tomato and sardine sauce
A very easy pasta sauce which will take less time to cook than your pasta. If you think there may some sardine-reluctance in your house, you could just use half a tin to introduce the idea, but in all honesty sardines are a pretty mild flavour.
- Splash of oil and a little knob of butter
- One small onion, finely chopped
- 1 clove of garlic, smushed
- 1 tin of MSC certified sardines in tomato sauce (or sunflower oil)
- 1 tin of chopped tomatoes
- Black pepper (and salt if you want to)
- Fry the garlic and onion in the butter and oil until soft, with a hint of brown
- Add the sardines and tomatoes and bring to a simmer
- Break up the sardines and any lumps of tomato with a wooden spoon and simmer until the sauce isn’t watery anymore
- Stir in the pepper and salt if you’re using it
- Serve like a normal tomato sauce with pasta and cheese!
Puff pizza (with sardines)
I’ve bracketed the sardines here because you might care to hide their existence too. The idea of adding them to my puff pizza was suggested to me by a friend who said she used to sneak sardines into her daughters this way. My boy would see the addition of fish as a selling point, but would be deeply wary if I mentioned the melted cheese, so I understand the need for a bit of judicious food description. From a taste point of view, sardines just work their anchovy-like vibe here and add savouriness without drawing attention to themselves as actual fish. Subtle little things sardines are.
- Make the tomato and sardine sauce above then stir through a tsp of wholegrain mustard
- A generous handful of grated cheese
- One block of puff pastry
- Some milk for brushing
Preheat to 200°C. Roll out the puff pasty to be roughly the same size as a baking sheet, then lift it onto the baking sheet. Cut inch-wide strips down either side (see picture). Pile the sauce and cheese down the middle then flap the strips over the top using a bit of milk to glue them down. This doesn’t need to be neat or perfect as it’ll all puff up and disguise any lack of skill. Give it a brushing of milk and bake for 25 minutes.
Filo (fish) parcels
Were this the 1970s I’d be calling these sardine cigars, but being 2013 and wanting to avoid any off-putting names, I’ve just gone with filo parcels. Not very descriptive, but maybe that’s fine.
For this recipe you need another quantity of the sardine sauce. Other than that, these are just the same as the puff pizza, but are wrapped in filo making them good for lunchboxes or picnics.
- To make the parcels you need to blob a couple of tablespoons worth of the cold sauce in the middle of one end of the filo rectangle and top with a tablespoon of grated cheese.
- Dab or brush the rest of the filo sheet with melted butter.
- Roll up a couple of times – a bit like a sausage roll, then fold the sides over to seal the filling in at the edges.
- Dab a bit more butter and roll up the rest of the way. Tears and dodgy rolling won’t matter at all when it’s cooked, so get the kids to do it and don’t worry about uniformity.
- Brush the tops with melted butter and bake for 10 minutes or so at 200°C.
Good on so many levels. Not least that you can get your children to make them. These are good to make if you’ve ever got leftover mashed potato lying around. In fact I’d never make mashed potato without the planning to have leftovers for fishcakes.
For one medium (215g) tin of fish, you’ll need about a cereal bowl’s worth of mashed potato – this is not an exact science and really doesn’t matter but that’s a rough guide and I’d aim to make 6 to 8 small fishcakes out of it. Also add ground black pepper and a grating of nutmeg if you have it. If you are using tinned salmon, you might want to pick it over to remove any skin and bones, or leave them in if it doesn’t bother you.
You could also add:
- Pinch of dried chilli flakes and a couple of spring onions
- A few frozen peas
- Dried or fresh dill or parsley
- Lemon zest
- Capers or gherkins if your kids like them
- A teaspoon of wholegrain mustard – goes especially well in a sardine fishcake
- Mash up the fish in a bowl and stir it into the mashed potato along with whatever else you’re adding.
- Form into fishcakes and either simply coat in flour or dip into a beaten egg and then cover in breadcrumbs (I keep a bag of breadcrumbs in the freezer made from leftover crusts!).
- Arrange on a lined or greased baking tray*. For preference I cook mine in the oven for 20 minutes at 200°C, after dotting a little bit of butter on top and turning then halfway through the cooking time. You could also fry them in butter and oil which seems altogether more taxing to me.
* You could freeze them at this point.
Kathie has two young children and is taking a break from teaching to be a full-time mum. She is passionate about cooking and growing good food and takes any opportunity to get her kids involved in the kitchen.