This article first appeared in Times Live and is entitled “Tinned not Canned – the new trend in preserved seafood”. Here I’ve adapted my original post slightly in order to make it blog-relevant.
No longer the answer to month-end penury or questionable casseroles, tinned seafood is taking its turn to feature as a desirable ingredient. Enter my two recipes with tinned fish – the simplest way to use this store cupboard staple.
What with chefs and food writers such as Bart van Olphen and Josh Niland, tinned seafood is now more on trend than ever before. Through his debut offering The Whole Fish Cookbook in 2019, Australian chef Josh Niland has highlighted the versatility of fish – with Kingfish Milt Mortadella, ocean trout sausage and octopus terrine with parsley as a few of his creations.
Operating from his Sydney-based restaurant Saint Peter, Josh cures, smokes, salts and ages a variety of fish, shellfish and cephalopods. His fish butchery skills have since become a trending topic in the food industry, with more and more fish enthusiasts introduced to an alternative way of cooking and consuming seafood.
Endorsed by Jamie Oliver, chef-turned seafood activist Bart van Olphen is the founder of Fish Tales – an organization that supports sustainable and responsible fishing practices. Starting with small-scale fishers, Fish Tales aims to support, educate and promote the catch and sale of sustainable seafood species. Urging the public to connect with fishing companies that practice transparency, Fish Tales elevates seafood otherwise seen as unexciting – with Bart’s 2016 Cooking with Tinned Fish book boosting the reputation of humble catches like sardines, tuna and mussels preserved in tins.
Closer to home, Tamsin Snyman’s 2017 cookbook Seven Colours with Fish highlighted the versatility of the unpretentious pilchard, the submissive sardine and the modest mackerel. Collaborating with South African seafood giant Lucky Star, Tamsin took the products this iconic brand has stocked for the past 50 years and brought them into the present – giving Lucky Star a contemporary appeal that goes far beyond sardines on toast.
Not that there is anything wrong with sardines on toast. In the following two recipes, I show just how appealing tinned fish can be. Readily available in most local supermarkets, tinned fish is an affordable and versatile addition to any meal, while the omega 3 content in oily fish such as sardines and mackerel is exceptionally good in lowering blood pressure and increasing heart health.
Marinated Octopus with Burrata
Unfortunately there is no locally produced tinned octopus but the Portuguese brand Gabriel retails a version packed in brine with garlic that is available at Giovanni’s Deli in Cape Town.
- 1 tin of chopped octopus in brine (approx.106g), drained
- Juice & zest of half a lemon
- 10ml flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
- 6-10 baby capers
- 20ml marinated artichokes, roughly chopped
- Coarse ground sea salt and black pepper
- 1 125g ball of burrata
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Caper berries to garnish (optional)
- Crusty bread, to serve
In a bowl, combine the first 5 ingredients and season to taste. Leave the octopus to marinate at room temperature for 15 – 20 minutes. Arrange the burrata on a plate and spoon the marinated octopus around the cheese. Drizzle over a glug of grassy olive oil and scatter over extra caper berries, if using. Serve the octopus with crusty bread and a chilled glass of Intellego’s unfiltered Pink Moustache Syrah/Cinsault/Mourvedre rosé.
Smoked Oyster Gratin
Adapted from blogger Lady and Pups’ recipe, this take on a retro snail starter is as decadent as it is simple. Smoked oysters work particularly well but plump mussels can be substituted. Retain the oil that the oysters are preserved in, as this is used in place of butter for an addictively umami flavour.
- 1 tin of smoked mussels, oil retained
- 125ml fresh cream
- 1 small clove of garlic, crushed
- 200g Parmesan cheese, grated
- Coarse ground sea salt and black pepper
Preheat the oven to 200°C. Remove the oysters from the tin and arrange them in a small shallow ovenproof dish. Combine the cream and the garlic and pour over the oysters. Drizzle about 20ml of the oyster oil over the cream and scatter the grated Parmesan over the top. Season the dish with black pepper and a small amount of salt. Bake the oysters in the oven for 10-15 minutes or until the cheese is golden and bubbling. Serve the oysters immediately with crusty bread and a chilled glass of MCC.