With most fish counters shutting up shop for the time being, it seems there couldn’t be a better time for Bart Van Olphen’s The Tinned Fish Cookbook (The Experiment, £14.99) to hit the (virtual) shelves. Packed with ideas for store-cupboard stalwarts and lesser-used preserved piscine varieties, it’s a must-have for anyone in need of an omega-3 fix.
The tricky part of writing a cookbook themed wholly around tinned fish is the issue of sustainability, which Van Olphen tackles in a way that is fantastically thorough without being overwhelming. His introduction discusses the role of the Marine Stewardship Council, which species to choose and what labels to look out for, and practical chapter introductions detail MSC-certified fisheries, the most common methods of fishing used and most common country of origin.
In addition to this, the book is packed with some lovely-looking food. Categorised by fish, each chapter is crammed with dishes that range from tuna melts to Asian broths, comforting bakes and flavour-boosting condiments.
I stuck to recipes that used corner-shop friendly ingredients. Those pages calling for dulse seaweed and fresh artichokes have been earmarked for another time.
Flavoured simply with shallots, chives (the recipe calls for parsley, but this was what I could get hold of), salt and pepper, these tuna burgers were a pleasant surprise. Juicy, perfectly matched to the lemon-spiked mayonnaise and avocado, and above all, real whoppers. I would perhaps make three burgers using the two tins of tuna in future, as both my partner and I failed to finish ours.
Mackerel and potato frittata
As the central ingredients for this dish (potatoes, cheese and eggs) have formed the basis of my quarantine diet thus far, I had to give this iteration a go. Ready within 30 minutes and substantial enough to feed four – as opposed to the suggested serving size of two – this was an immediate winner. Fontina cheese proved elusive in Morrisons, but taleggio was a wonderful stand-in, oozing invitingly over the crisped potatoes and flecks of mackerel.
Cauliflower steak with mushrooms and anchovy butter
Though I’m already well aware of the transformative effects of adding anchovy butter to almost anything, I was seduced by the combination of slightly charred cauliflower, fried mushrooms and potato wedges. And who could resist mopping up that sumptuous butter with the stubby end of a half-eaten potato? I’m reminded of why anchovies are contenders for the best fish in the world.
A cookbook about tinned fish – practical, clearly themed and very right for now – was never going to be a hard sell, and Van Olphen’s colourful, informative book fully meets expectations. With simple instructions, a wide variety of flavours and a few surprisingly tasty recipes (a Thai red curry using tinned tuna, was unexpectedly addictive), I’m stocking up on herring and sardines before anyone else cottons on.