Chef James Martin & nutritionist Amanda Hamilton support canned foods

James Martin and Amanda Hamilton get into cooking

James Martin and Amanda Hamilton get into cooking

I’ve said it before: the internet is a wonderful thing. Recently, Canned Food UK ran an online press conference featuring celebrity chef James Martin and nutritionist Amanda Hamilton. For half an hour, the two answered questions about picnic and camping food and discussed recipes and nutrition. (You’ll find some easy-to-make camping and picnic food ideas below.) The messages was two-fold: canned food is nutritious and very convenient. As well as a press conference, this was a marketing event.

The last time I saw James Martin he did not make a favourable impression but this time he came across much better. He was lighthearted, treated his ingredients well and got in with the job of cooking, which is what he does well. He whipped up a broccoli and tinned salmon quiche (sorry, no recipe for this one), mixed a sweet and sour noodle salad and described how to make a yummy tomato soup.

Quick tomato soup
In a saucepan, cook an onion or a couple of shallots in oil until soft, add tinned tomatoes and a little garlic, mix in liberal amounts of olive oil, grind over a lot of black pepper. Serve with bread.

Tasty and prettily green: broccoli and salmon quiche.
Tasty and prettily green: broccoli and salmon quiche.

If you asked me whether I used canned foods I would  say no but in reality I do all the time. Part of the reason that I would say I don’t use canned food is linguistic: I make a difference between canned food – ravioli and baked beans – and canned goods – tomatoes and beans. Tinned tomatoes are a staple in my kitchen, as are chickpeas and all kinds of tinned pulses. I’m also rather a fan of mackerel in olive oil, sardines in tomato sauce, smoked mussels and white crab meat. I’m so fond of these things I don’t even think of them as  being canned. The term evokes memories of syrup sweet fruit cocktail, slippery peaches, spam and tuna – things that were treats to me as a child but that I rather avoid now.

James mentioned compound salads, salads that integrate rice, noodles, potatoes or other carbohydrates, and  as the perfect picnic and camping food. From a young child, I have found cold rice and pasta quite horrid but recently I have discovered soba noodles which are wonderful cold. James’ noodle salad doesn’t use soba noodles but that’s an easy change to make.

Put it all together, mix and eat. Easy.
Put it all together, mix and eat. Easy.

Noodle salad
Place some instant noodles in warm water to soften. Chop spring onions, tinned pineapple (retaining the juice for the dressing), baby sweetcorn, water chestnuts, tomatoes into toothsome chunks, mix with the noodles when soft. For the dressing, mix pineapple juice with honey, dark soy sauce and rapeseed oil. Dress salad and sprinkle some spring onion and some basil on top. You can also add cold chicken.

Amanda made it very clear that canned vegetables are healthy: they are cooked in the can and retain their nutrition. That’s good to know but it is the convenience of canned goods is what will always win me over. In our household, we eat a lot of hummus. Dry chickpeas might be cheap but tinned ones are much more convenient. No soaking, no hours and hours of using gas and steaming up the kitchen (I don’t have a pressure cooker) instead just instant chickpeas. It’s great and I can’t tell the difference in taste, so I get no benefit from boiling my own.

Go to Canned Food UK online to get more recipes – there’s even a u.Can app – and inspiration.

All pictures are screenshots from the presss conference.

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About Caroline von Schmalensee

Cooking, eating and drinking is fun as well as necessary. I do food for fun and I write for a living. Good food makes the world a more delicious and satisfying place. Good writing, meanwhile, can make the world a less confusing place.

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