Discover the Magic in Canned Foods

Kristina’s Bookshelf

Tin Can Magic: Simple, Delicious Recipes Using Pantry Staples
By Jessica Elliott Dennison
(Hardie Grant Books, 2020)

If the empty shelves and lines at local food markets are any indication, many of you have cupboards full to bursting with canned foods. If you’re wondering what to do with all those tins of beans, tomatoes, coconut milk, condensed milk, and cherries, you may find Tin Can Magic helpful. Over 60 recipes are built around a simple can of food with only 5–10 additional ingredients to cook hearty main dishes, filling sides, and creative desserts to feed hungry families.

Dishes include sausages and braised lentils with different additions like spinach and garlic aioli, carrot and thyme, or fennel and red wine. There’s also a mix of dried chili linguine with tinned anchovies. Among the sweet bites are chickpea meringues flavored with add-ons like brown sugar; cocoa and coffee cream; orange, yogurt, and tahini; or poached rhubarb. Another intriguing dessert is a pepper cherry crumble with toasted rolled oats and hazelnuts.

Following are two recipes from the book that I tried at home. The first is a fully plant-based curry that’s very filling alone or with naan or rice. It’s easy to substitute any vegetables you have on hand and spice to taste.

In the second recipe, if sage doesn’t seem like springtime, you can substitute oregano, rosemary, or thyme. Topped with a bit of toasted sourdough and lemon zest, this dish cooks up quickly and easily and makes a delicious comfort food. The book includes suggestions for varying the recipe with fennel and red wine, and another with a piquant salsa.

These recipes are excerpted with permission from Tin Can Magic by Jessica Elliott Dennison published by Hardie Grant Books February 2020, RRP $22.99 Flexibound.

SQUASH AND FENUGREEK CURRY with Ginger and Spinach

Serves 2 very generously or 4 if served with naan bread
Prep time: 45 minutes

1 small squash (ideally coquina or butternut)
3 tablespoons rapeseed (canola), vegetable or light olive oil
1 teaspoon salt, plus extra to taste
2 onions, peeled and finely sliced
4 garlic cloves, peeled and roughly crushed
1 thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger root, roughly grated (shredded) on the large side of a box grater
1 14-ounce tin coconut milk (ideally full-fat)
2 teaspoons ground turmeric
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1½ teaspoons chili (hot pepper) flakes
1 teaspoon ground fenugreek
Grated zest of 1 lemon
1 teaspoon lemon juice
3½ ounces spinach, washed and drained
4 small naan breads

For squash: cauliflower, bell peppers, broccoli
For spinach: chard, kale, shredded savoy cabbage
For ground fenugreek: garam masala, crushed fenugreek seeds

First, preheat the oven to 375°. Roughly chop the squash into large chunks (using a spoon, discard any pips, but don’t bother peeling), transfer to a roasting tin then toss in 1 tablespoon of oil and ½ teaspoon of salt. Roast for 25 minutes, tossing halfway through.

Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a large pan over a medium heat. Add the onion and fry for 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic and ginger, then fry for another 8 minutes until fragrant. Reduce the heat if the garlic looks as though it’s going to burn.

Spoon 3 tablespoons of the white, firm coconut cream at the top of the tin into the onion, then stir in the turmeric, cumin, chili flakes and fenugreek for 30–60 seconds until fragrant. Pour in the remaining coconut milk from the tin, ½ teaspoon of salt, half the lemon zest and the lemon juice.

Next, transfer the roasted pumpkin to the sauce, stir in the spinach until wilted, then taste for seasoning. You may want to add more salt.

Carefully using tongs, char the naan bread on a gas flame for a few seconds until warm and slightly charred (or warm in the oven).

To assemble: Divide the curry and naan breads between plates, then zest over the remaining lemon

COOK’S TIP: If you’ve got any flaked coconut or almond flakes, gently toast in a dry frying pan (skillet) for 2–3 minutes then sprinkle over before eating.




Serves 4–6
Prep time: 1 hour

2/3 cup rapeseed (canola) or light olive oil, plus extra for finishing
4 onions, peeled and finely sliced
8 garlic cloves, peeled and finely sliced
1 large handful of sage leaves (roughly 5 stalks), leaves picked
2 bay leaves (optional)
3 14-ounce tins of butter (lima) beans in water
2 cups white wine
3 teaspoons sea salt flakes, plus extra to taste
Grated zest of 2 lemons
Toasted sourdough, to serve (optional)

For sage: oregano, rosemary, thyme

First, heat the oil over a medium heat in a deep, wide pan. Stir in the onion, garlic, sage leaves and woody stalks and bay leaves, reduce the heat to low and gently sweat for 20–25 minutes, stirring occasionally. You want the onion and garlic to take on a golden color without burning. If they’re catching, add a splash of water to loosen them.

Add the beans (including the juice from the tin), crushing a handful as you pour them in. Add the wine, salt and enough water to cover, then increase to a rapid boil. Reduce to a simmer for 20–25 minutes then add in most of the lemon zest and taste for seasoning; depending on the acidity of your white wine, you may want to add some lemon juice from your zested lemon. As the beans are quite simple, you may find you need to be quite generous with the seasoning.

Using a fork, fish out and discard the sage stalks and bay leaves, but you can leave in if you prefer. Crush a few more beans if you’d like a slightly thicker consistency.

To assemble: Ladle the beans onto plates, pop a slice of toasted sourdough on each, then generously drizzle on some oil and a bit more lemon zest.

COOK’S TIP: Carefully using tongs, try charring the sourdough over an open gas flame to give your bread a deep, charred woodoven flavour.

Edible East Bay’s book editor Kristina Sepetys is eager to share her ideas and book recommendations with our readers.