In Praise of Tinned Fish

Written by Ben Lippett // @dinnerbyben // benlippett.co.uk

an illustration of radicchio, tinned fish and blood orange

Tinned seafood is so much more than fish crammed greedily into a metal box. It’s something I consistently reach for when I need to eat something easy, quick and delicious. It’s ubiquitous in kitchens across the world, an inescapable, essential ingredient. It’s a safe bet, something comforting that most of us have been eating from the moment we learned to walk, maybe even before that. It’s vital to any self respecting kitchen cupboard to have a healthy and eclectic stock of tinned seafood.


Sure, nothing beats a tuna melt or a pasta bake, and by no means should you halt the production of these national treasures. However, if you want to try something new, here are a few easy recipes that you might not have tried using tinned fish. All the recipes will make a bowl each for two people.


A warm grilled radicchio, blood orange and Ortiz tuna salad


This salad comes in many forms throughout the year and is dictated by the seasons. With grilled green beans and baby potatoes in summer or fresh spring peas, mint and crusty bread in May. February boasts the deep, bitter splendour of the winter leaves. The warm grilled radicchio with a sweet, tart blood orange dressing is fantastic with the king of tinned fish, Ortiz Tuna.


Heat a griddle pan over a high heat until smoking hot. Quarter one head of radicchio, brush with olive oil and season with sea salt. Grill the cut sides of each piece of radicchio until charred, warm throughout and slightly wilted. Take two blood oranges, segment one and juice the other into a small bowl. Add a pinch of sea salt, a chopped red chilli (seeds optional), some picked mint and parsley leaves and a glug of olive oil. Add the segments to the bowl and mix the dressing together. Pop open your tin of Ortiz tuna and flake into chunky pieces. Place your grilled radicchio into bowls along with some tuna, dress with the blood orange vinaigrette.


Smoked Mussels and Tomato on Toast


A quick lunch that has bags of flavour and employs a slightly less celebrated character in the world of tinned seafood. One that has been staring at you longingly from the shelf.


Take two chunky slices of sourdough bread and toast in a hot pan with olive oil or under a grill until slightly charred. Cut a large, ripe red tomato into generous slices and season with plenty of sea salt and black pepper. Stack them high on the grilled bread and drizzle with some good olive oil. Pop open your tin of smoked musses tip them into a small bowl. Chop some fresh chives and basil leaves and stir through the mussels with a squeeze of lemon juice. Pile the herby smoked mussels atop your tomato toasts and tuck in.


Sardine Puttanesca.


This is my favourite pasta of all time to make at home. My partner and I have it at least once a fortnight. Packed to the gills with flavour. It works with any dried pasta shape at any time, and can celebrate or cure any mood. To me, it is perfect.


Start by heating some olive oil in a large frying pan over a medium-high heat. Add a tablespoon of roughly chopped capers, four thinly sliced or crushed garlic cloves, a few whole anchovies and a generous pinch of dried chilli flakes. Cook until the garlic is just starting to take on a light, toasted golden colour. Add a handful of halved cherry tomatoes and cook for 5-6 minutes or until the tomatoes start to breakdown and become jammy. Drop 180g of dried pasta into rapidly boiling, salted water and cook until just al dente. Whilst your pasta is cooking, add a splash of white wine to your sauce and reduce by half. Once the pasta is cooked, transfer it to the sauce along with a splash of starchy, salty pasta water. Add a whole tin of sardines, a handful of smashed black olives and some torn basil leaves. Toss the pasta until the sauce is silky and clinging to the pasta, finish with the juice of half a lemon. Divide between two bowls and devour.