The Not So Humble Tin

With Tatiana Bento of the Marmalade Cookery School


 This month, Tatiana is extolling the virtues of tinned fish. Some readers will remember that we were raving about the tinned mackerel on toast that we’d been served in the Algarve last summer – well Tatiana is obviously in agreement that it is a much under used ingredient. Her last recipe is for Spaghetti alla Puttanesca or as Delia Smith coyly named it – Tart’s Pasta. It’s more commonly known as Whore’s Pasta, maybe because it was a cheap dish that could be made quickly by a working girl – whatever the root, it’s a jolly good supper dish

Tat pic 1

I recently found out that one of my favourite fish canning factories here in the south of Portugal actually belongs to a member of my family whom I hadn’t had contact with before – I was lucky enough to be invited for a tour.

Conserveira do Sul is one of the oldest fish canning factories in the Algarve; bought by Antonio Jacinto

Ferreira in 1954, it is run by his grandsons today, making it a truly family business.

The company employs a group of very skilled ladies (as apparently only women have a soft enough touch for the delicate fish) to prepare the fish by hand, removing the head, skin, fins and bones. They then place the remaining fillets in the tins for the sealing and pressurising process. The final paper packaging is added by the same delicate hands, as there are no machines able to fold the paper in quite the same way.

The fish preserved at this factory are mainly traditional with some innovations along the way, they focus on fish like sardine, mackerel, anchovies and tuna.

As canned fish is an easy and inexpensive way to get more fishy goodness into your diet and you can dress it up or down, we decided to pick up three different varieties and make three different recipes out of them.

So next time you’re in the supermarket, pick up some fishies in a tin and give these a try. You won’t regret it.

Tat pic 2


The super fast lunch

Tinned Mackerel with mustard and honey dressing bruschetta


This dish is a lot simpler than usual, but the truth is that we all live in the real world and sometimes there is simply no time to do more. However, I still want to eat good healthy food so this little recipe is one of my “go tos” in case I’m in a hurry.



Tin of mackerel or sardines in olive oil

Mixed leaf salad

Cherry tomatoes

Good quality sourdough bread or other good quality bread

Olive oil

1 tbsp of whole grain mustard

1 tbsp of good quality honey

1 tbsp of balsamic vinegar

Sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper



This is going to be a super-quick dish so make sure that you have everything ready to go.

Start by making your mustard dressing. Blend the honey and mustard in a small bowl with a fork until emulsified. Drizzle in the balsamic vinegar until dressing is just thin enough to pour over salad.

Taste and add more vinegar if desired. Season with pepper and salt if needed.

Tip #1: Wholegrain mustard goes best here but feel free to use any other type of mustard.

Now pop your bread in the toaster and once done, top it with a mixed leaf salad, sliced cherry tomatoes, your fishies (straight out of the can) and finally your dressing on top with a drizzle of olive oil.


Tip #2: When choosing your canned fish go for those in olive oil if you can. The texture and flavour of the fish will be a lot better.


Asian flavours…

South Indian Tuna Croquettes

Tat pic 3


This is a great little dish. It makes use of canned tuna and it will be the centre of any party food table. If you are feeling more adventurous they can be dropped into any tomato based curry and served on top of basmati rice.


3 tins of tuna

2 potatoes

1 onion, finely chopped
7 curry leaves, finely chopped
1/2 tsp of garam masala

1/4 tsp chilli powder

1/4 tsp turmeric powder

About 1 inch piece of ginger

6 garlic cloves

4 green chillies (optional)
½ tsp of fennel seeds (optional)

½ tsp black pepper

1 or 2 eggs, beaten

Bread crumbs, as needed

Sea salt to taste

Oil for frying



Open the lid of the tuna and leave the lid on, push it down with your thumb and drain as much of the oil from the can as possible.

Tip #3: This recipe is very versatile so use any other fish you like, canned or fresh.

     Now get a big pan with some salted boiling water and drop the peeled potatoes in. Cook until they are tender, drain, mash it and keep it aside.

You are going to need a spice grinder or a good pestle and mortar. Add the ginger, garlic, chillies, fennel seeds and black pepper and grind all the ingredients to a paste.

In the meanwhile heat a little oil in a pan and add the chopped curry leaves and onions, sauté till they are soft then add the paste made in the grinder and give it a stir for about 15 seconds. Add the spice powders and fry it for a minute or two.

Now it’s time to add the tuna and season with salt. Reduce the heat and cook for 8-10 minutes, or until it is dry, remove from the heat and allow to cool.

Once cooled, add the mashed potatoes and mix well with your hands to make a type of dough. Make small balls or any other shape you want, with your hands and set the balls aside till ready to fry.

Get a plate with beaten egg and another with bread crumbs ready. Heat your oil ready for frying. Once the oil is hot dip each ball in beaten egg and then roll it in bread crumbs. Deep fry these in boiling hot oil until golden and crisp, drain on paper towels.

Serve warm with onion salad or simply ketchup.


Tip #4: To make onion salad, thinly slice onions and green chillies. Mix it well with salt and a tsp of vinegar.


Tip #5: If you want you can freeze the balls once fried and cooled down.


Tip #6: If you are feeling adventurous and want to take this dish a bit further you can drop these little fish balls into any tomato base curry sauce and serve it on top of plain basmati rice.


The dressed up anchovy…

Pasta Alla Puttanesca

 Bay Template


This dish is a relatively simple pasta dish but one of the best in my opinion. It makes use of tinned anchovies and goes well with a glass of good Italian red wine.



50 ml + 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

3 tinned anchovy fillets, chopped

1/4 tsp finely chopped garlic

Sea salt

400g canned whole peeled tomatoes (keep the juice), coarsely chopped

2 tsp fresh chopped oregano (or 1/2 tsp dried oregano)

2 tbsp capers

10 black olives, pitted and julienned

1 fresh chilli, finely chopped

200g of spaghetti

Parmesan cheese, shaved



Place all but 1 tbsp of the olive oil and the anchovies in a large skillet over a low heat and cook, stirring until the anchovies dissolve. Add the garlic and

cook for about 15



Tip #7: Take special care with the garlic not to brown it or it will get bitter.

Raise the heat to medium-high and add the tomatoes, and juice, with a pinch of salt. When the sauce comes to a boil, turn the heat down and simmer until the tomatoes have reduced and separated from the oil. This will probably take 20-30 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside.


Tip #8: If you want, you can now refrigerate the sauce and save for the next day. It will also freeze really well.

Cook the pasta in a big pot of boiling salted water. When the pasta is half cooked, return the skillet with the sauce to a medium heat, adding the oregano, capers, olives and chilli if using.

When the pasta is cooked al dente, drain and toss with the sauce in the skillet over a low heat, adding the remaining tablespoon of olive oil. Taste for salt and serve at once with fresh Parmesan cheese.


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