Yes We Can: in praise of tinned food

Tinned food gets a bad rap, especially these days where fresh is king: is buy fresh, cook fresh - and from scratch.

And of course, fresh and seasonal is the ideal. But plenty of us live the type of lives where we make absent-minded shopping lists then, when arriving at the supermarket realise we left it on the countertop at home - or we let fresh produce run over its use-by date and languish in the crisper drawers.

Our store cupboard is often a saviour so we’re wrong to dismiss its tinned contents out of hand. And actually, there is much to be said for a pantry packed with tins and cans – and much of it is the key to delicious meals.

We’re not asking you to get involved with tins of spam or cheeseburger or whole chickens or pork brains – yes really – but there are some brilliant canned foods that are more than just emergency products.

Here are just some of the benefits:

Firstly, thanks to the being sealed the contents last and last and last: no worrying about the contents going off any time soon.

Secondly, they’re cheap.

Thirdly, there are healthy! The canning mechanism retains the goodness from all sorts of vitamins, meaning plenty of tinned fruits and vegetables have high nutritional value. They aren’t dietary duds – and they are not of poor quality.

Lastly, they look lovely. No, we don’t mean baked beans (although the packaging is one of the world’s most iconic designs) but certain tins and cans can really pep up the pantry in the looks department! Fresh avocado might seem like the more Instagrammable option, but we think some old-fashioned tins could give it a run for its money.

In many countries some tinned food is a delicacy. We know there are moral questions surrounding fois gras but that comes in a tin as does plenty of different varieties of fish in Spain and Portugal.
Jack Monroe is a passionate advocate of tinned foods, even writing a book on the topic. She maintains that with onion and garlic fried as a base there is much magic to be made with the contents of cans. Another fan is Diana Henry, whose gorgeous dishes look world’s away from a can opener. However, she prides herself on simple cooking and admits that kitchen suppers often consist of things that have given her a little head start.
As a starter kit, we recommend the following canned goods and suggest what one can do them:

- Crab - with which you can make a show-stopping spaghetti dish
- Tinned tomatoes – with which you can make the perfect tomato sauce for pizzas, pastas or stews
- artichoke hearts – with which you can make a dish of deliciousness that involves simply placing the hearts into a baking dish, drizzling lemon on top plus some chopped garlic and then sprinkling a hefty handful of parmesan over the whole lot and bung it in the oven at 200 degrees for 15 minutes
- anchovies – fried in garlic and butter then served on toast. Heaven!
- Canellini beans – transformed into a tasty mash a la Nigella’s recipe, and served with sausages
- Condensed milk – you might be tempted to just drink it with a straw – and we’d forgive you it’s so good, but the best thing you can do with this delicious nectar is surely whip up a good old Banoffee pie – we think Mary Berry’s version wins the day


What is your pantry favourite - and what do you make with it? We’d love to know!

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