Yes we can! The best meals to make using tinned food, according to top chefs

 (Design by Sarah Morley)
(Design by Sarah Morley)

Not to be too disheartening, but disarray seems to be the theme of Britain in 2023. One of this month’s calamities is that we are running out of food. Somehow, a country that has about 70 per cent of its land dedicated to farming has come a cropper with, well, crops; if it sounds surreal, it is in fact nightmarish. The fruit and vegetable shortages are expected to run on for another month or so, but it could be longer: the blame lies with Brexit and the weather, yes, but it also lies with the supermarket powers who have systematically driven farmers out of business by forcing deals that aren’t sustainable. Blame may also lie with a changing attitude towards diet: eating in season ceased to be the thing — is it customers who demanded, say, asparagus year-round, or did we just get a taste for it once it was offered?

Fruit and vegetables are one problem, but there are others. Figures yesterday from data analytics group Kantar revealed that prices across the board have risen again as grocery inflation reached 17.1 per cent in the four weeks leading up to Februrary 19. For context, this is the sharpest incline in food inflation ever recorded by the group, and the fallout means the average household will have to find an additional £811 each year for their shopping. There are other costs going up too — whether pints in a pub or simply popping the heating on — which means cooking at home requires ever-increasing creativity. But, with the shelves empty, it also requires ever-increasing supplies in the cupboard that won’t go off.

It’s time to turn to the tinnies: below are tips, tricks and recipes from some of London’s top chefs. Given canned goods are often cheaper than their fresh counterparts, these pages have vegetable-oriented options, yes, but other ideas too — both fancy and frugal. Make these your store cupboard classics.

Kuru Fasulye

Esra Muslu, Zahter;

 (Press handout)
(Press handout)

“This is a classic stewed bean dish in Turkish cuisine. It’s one of those that warms and comforts and is more filling than it sounds. It takes a little preparation but as long as you’ve a can of beans and an onion to hand, it’s easy enough.”

Serves: 2


  • 250g dried white beans, such as Haricot or Cannellini, soaked overnight in cold water

  • 1 onion, diced

  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste

  • 75ml olive oil

  • 1 cup Baldo rice, soaked for two hours and then washed to get rid of excess starch

  • 70g butter

  • Salt, pepper

  • Sweat the onions in 50ml olive oil in a saucepan. Next, add the tomato paste in the pan and mix it in.


  1. Drain the beans and wash through, getting rid of all the excess water. Add the beans to the saucepan add a little more water if needed. Season with salt and pepper. Cook the beans until they get tender.

  2. Melt the butter in another saucepan and add the remaining olive oil. Place your rice in the saucepan, and cook for 10 minutes while constantly stirring.

  3. Add a cup of hot water on top of the rice, add some salt and stir one more time. Place the lid on top of your saucepan, then cook on the lowest heat for 25 minutes. Then turn the heat off and rest it for 10 minutes. After that stir your rice one more time and it is ready to eat; simply plate it with the beans and onions and tomato and you’re good to go.

Crab toast

Kathy Sidell, Saltie Girl,

 (Press handout)
(Press handout)

Serves: 4-8 (makes eight toasts)


  • 100g butter

  • 8 slices whole-wheat bread

  • 600g tinned white crab meat

  • 9 tbsp. chives, sliced

  • Salt, pepper

  • 4 avocados

  • 4 whole burrata

  • 8 tsp. pistachio oil

  • 8 tbsp. pistachios, crushed and toasted

  • Splash lemon juice


  1. Spread butter on both sides of wheat bread. Griddle both sides until golden brown.

  2. In a bowl, mix crabmeat, lemon juice, and 8 tablespoons of the chives, salt, and pepper.

  3. Slice avocado and season with salt and pepper. Place the sliced avocado on top of the griddled bread.

  4. Next, set halves of burrata on the avocado. Scoop a spoonful of the crab mix over the cheese. Finish with pistachio oil, toasted pistachios, and the remaining chives.

Bakwan jagung

Rahel Stephanie, Spoons, @eatwithsp00ns

 (Press handout)
(Press handout)

“Bakwan are crisp, crunchy fritters bursting with sweetcorn kernels that are a staple of the Indonesian street snack scene, and sold by roadside vendors day and night. A word of warning, though: they are very moreish.”

Serves: 4 (makes 8-10 fritters)


  • Neutral oil

  • 100g plain flour

  • 50g rice flour

  • 260g drained tinned sweetcorn

  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled and minced

  • 3 banana shallots (or 6 smallAsian shallots), peeled and thinly sliced

  • 1 stick celery, trimmed and thinly sliced

  • 1 spring onion, trimmed and thinly sliced

  • Salt, pepper


  1. Heat about 2½cm oil in a large, deep-sided pan; once the handle of a wooden spoon orchopstick bubbles when dipped in, the oil is ready for cooking.

  2. Meanwhile, mix the flours, salt and pepper in a large bowl, then gradually beat inenough cold water to make a smooth, thick batter – you’ll need about 180ml water in total.

  3. Drop all the vegetables into the batter, mix thoroughly, then, working in batches, drop small dollops of batter into the hot oil and fry until golden brown on both sides.

  4. Transfer to a rack placed on a lined baking tray to drain, and keep warm in a low oven.

  5. Repeat with the remaining batter. Serve hot just as they are, or dipped in your choice of sambal or peanut sauce.

Cavatelli with caramelised onion and anchovy sauce

Ollie Templeton, Carousel;

 (Press handout)
(Press handout)

“Sometimes the best things in life are the simplest; this one is a straightfoward joy, and your tinned anchovies can live in the kitchen cupboard for years, so keep a few on hand.”

Serves: 4


  • 2 onions

  • 15ml extra virgin olive oil

  • 5g salt

  • 4 salted anchovy fillets (tinned)

  • 1 lemon (juice and zest)


  1. To make the sauce, cut the onions in half, removing the outer skin and slice them finely. Heat all of the oil in a pan and add the onion along with the salt. Cook on a medium heat for about 30 minutes until deeply caramelised.

  2. Next, place the cooked onions in a food processor with the anchovies and lemon juice. Blend until smooth and creamy, adding a touch more oil if needed so that everything comes together. Alternatively, chop everything together as finely as possible, so all the ingredients are completely combined.

  3. When you’re ready to serve, bring a medium pot of water to the boil and salt it generously. Drop the cavatelli into the pot and cook for around one minute, or until they float to the top.

  4. Drain the pasta, reserving some pasta water, and toss the pasta with the sauce in a saucepan adding a splash of pasta water until it is glossy and the consistency is enough to coat the pasta. Serve immediately.

Bonus: Want to make the pasta? You’ll need 180g semolina flour, 180g plain flour, and 170g water. Start by putting both flours into a large mixing bowl and create a well in the centre. Then pour the water into the well and use your hands to combine the ingredients and bring the mixture together to form a dough. Once combined, knead for 3-4 minutes, or until smooth, then wrap in cling film and leave to rest in the fridge for 30 minutes. Next, dust a baking tray with semolina. To shape the cavatelli, take a pinch of the dough and roll over the cavatelli board using a medium pressure to create small curls with a ridge. Arrange the cavatelli on your prepared tray, dusting in more semolina if needed to keep them from sticking.

Flageolet beans with parsley crumb

Tom Aikens, Muse,

 (Food Story Media)
(Food Story Media)

“I have always loved beans, from of course the earlier years as a child eating baked beans on toast with cheese. Now it’s got a little more sophisticated, but my love for beans definitely comes from childhood. It’s a comfort dish that’s lovely and hearty and one that will satisfy all appetites. Plus the great thing with this is you can adjust it with other veg and other beans as well.

“I love this dish as its a warming bake that has many layers of flavour. The duck fat, lardons and cream add a lovely richness that’s balanced out nicely by the earthy beans and fresh, herby crunchy top.”

Serves: 2-3


For the beans

  • 500g tinned flageolet beans, drained but keep the liquor

  • 120g smoked bacon rashers, thinly sliced and cut into tiny lardons

  • 4 shallots, finely diced

  • Large pinch of dried garlic

  • 2 medium carrots finely diced

  • 30g duck fat

  • 20g butter

  • 100ml double cream

  • ½ tsp dried parsley

  • Large pinch of dried thyme leaves

  • Zest of a lemon

For the parsley crumb

  • 100g white dried breadcrumbs

  • 30g grated gruyere cheese

  • 30g grated parmesan cheese

  • Salt, pepper

  • Large pinch dried garlic

  • 1 tsp dried parsley

  • 1 tbsp olive oil

  • Zest of a lemon


  1. Begin with the beans. Start with a medium-sized pan, add the duck fat on a low to medium heat. Once it’s hot, add the bacon lardons and cook for a couple of minutes.

  2. Add the diced carrot, diced shallot, thyme and diced garlic with some seasoning, and cook for a further two minutes.

  3. Add the beans and 200ml of the bean stock.  Reduce this until most of the liquid has evaporated.

  4. Add the cream and reduce a little and whisk in the butter, check the seasoning and add the parsley and lemon zest, then place this all into an oven-proof dish.

  5. Next, make the crumb. Start by placing the crumbs into a kitchen blender with the lemon zest, garlic, parsley, salt and pepper, and then blitz until just till coarsely chopped — this will be no more than 20-30 seconds.

  6. Place into a bowl and add the remaining Parmesan and gruyere cheese then sprinkle on the parsley crumb and bake in the oven at 200°C for 15 minutes.

Polpette al Sugo

Fabio Petrucci, Eataly,

 (Press handout)
(Press handout)

Serves: 5-6


  • 400g Breadcrumbs

  • 450g Minced beef, from our butcher

  • 450g Minced pork

  • 2 Eggs

  • 1 Onion, grated

  • 3 Garlic cloves, crushed

  • 1/4 Bunch fresh parsley, chopped

  • 1tsp Italian herbs

  • 30g Extra Virgin Olive Oil

  • Salt, pepper

  • 10g Parmigiano Reggiano, freshly grated

  • 1 Garlic clove, whole

  • 800ml Tomato sauce (passata di pomodoro)


  1. Cover a baking tray with foil and drizzle lightly with Extra Virgin Olive Oil.

  2. Soak breadcrumbs with the grated onions and its juice in a small bowl for 20 minutes. Heat the Extra Virgin Olive Oil in a pan over medium heat. Cook and stir in onions until translucent, for about 20 minutes.

  3. Mix beef and pork together in a large bowl. Stir onions, bread crumb mixture, eggs, parsley, garlic, salt, black pepper, Italian herb seasoning and Parmigiano Reggiano into a meat mixture with a rubber spatula until combined. Cover and refrigerate for about one hour.

  4. Preheat the oven to 220ºC.

  5. Using wet hands, shape the meat mixture into balls about 4cm in diameter. Arrange onto prepared baking tray. Bake in the preheated oven until browned and cooked through, for 15-20 minutes, and let them cool.

  6. Finish in your favourite tomato sauce, previously cooked in a pan for 15-20 minutes, seasoned with a whole clove of garlic, salt and pepper to taste. Cook the meatballs for 10 minutes, turning and stirring occasionally. Serve warm.

Spam fritters

James Cochran, 12:51;

 (Lateef Photography)
(Lateef Photography)

“Spam fritters are cost-friendly and delicious, which is what everyone’s looking for at the moment. You can have them two different — with mash or houmous — so it can be easily adapted from a quick lunch to a full blown dinner. It’s also easy to scale up, so if feeding a large family, double the amounts!”

Serves: 2


  • One tin of spam

  • 50g flour

  • 1 tbsp scotch bonnet jam

  • 5g jerk spice

  • Mixed pickles

  • Pita bread (optional)


  1. Slice the spam, then mix the flour with the jerk spice and lightly coat the spam, dabbing off any excess. This will give it a nice crispy coating when you pan fry it.

  2. Next, fry on both sides, then brush with scotch bonnet jam and put in the oven for 4 minutes. Use Turkish mixed pickles — carrot, onions and gherkins — and roughly slice them up, serving them on top. With a pita, it makes a great kebab.

  3. Alternatively, serve the fitters with a butter bean mash: drain some tinned butter beans into a pan, and lightly mash them up with some salt, pepper and smoked paprika. Serve your fritters on top with your pickles.

Do more than it says on the tin

More quick tips from top chefs

I always have tinned food at home for times when I’m in need of quick meal, whether it’s for lunch or dinner. I go for tinned food like tomatoes, lentils, and chickpeas, as I know I can make a quick pasta sauce or soup with all of them.Sami Tamimi

Make a quick-fire makhani sauce by adding tinned tomatoes to a base of ginger and garlic; once brought to the boil blend the mixture to a smooth consistency, add butter, double cream, dried fenugreek, sugar and salt. Add to the sauce tandoori chicken to create butter chicken, or cubes of paneer as a veggie option.Will Bowlby, Kricket

I always have a can of chipotle in my cupboard. I like to use it when slow-cooking meat as it adds a smoky depth to the dish which you don’t get from fresh chillies. Adriana Cavita, Cavita

Tinned jackfruit is one of my absolute faves and the tinned product that we were founded on. Anything that uses pulled meats, this is the vegan alternative! Meriel Armitage, Club Mexicana

Get to know your reliable go-tos: for me, it’s Antonella for tomatoes, and Olasagasti for anchovies are the best. Mitshel Ibrahim, Ombra

There are so many ways to use cans that will keep: tinned cep mushrooms for risotto, maybe, or tinned lychee to make a sorbet with. I also love tinned apple for a decent crumble. William Drabble, Seven Park Place

Sweet corn, ricotta and tarragon fritters

Ben Tish, Cubitt House,

 (Press handout)
(Press handout)

“Tinned sweetcorn is just great – it’s easy, healthy and sweet and you really get a hit off of it. We have these fritters at home as a snack or for breakfast at the weekend – they’re great when served with yoghurt or a drizzle of honey.”

Serves: 4


  • 400g tinned sweet corn, drained

  • 100g ricotta

  • A handful of tarragon leaves, chopped and not

  • 2 eggs

  • 25g parmesan finely grated

  • Juice and zest ½ lemon

  • Pinch baking powder

  • Salt, pepper, olive oil for cooking


  1. In a food processor, blitz the corn, ricotta, eggs and parmesan into a coarse batter.

  2. Gradually add the flour, baking powder and season well. Lastly pulse in the lemon, juice, zest and chopped tarragon.

  3. Cover and leave to rest for 15 minutes.

  4. Heat a large non stick pan over a medium heat, and add a 0.5cm depth of olive oil.

  5. When hot, add in 4 spoonfuls of batter — these will set on impact and start to colour. Cook for 2 minutes, then flip and repeat, until they’re fluffy, golden brown.

  6. Remove and repeat with remaining mix.

  7. Season the fritters with salt, finely grated parmesan and whole tarragon leaves. Delicious with salad and aioli.