One of the last cookbooks I grabbed from the office before the ‘stay at home’ order went into effect was Lola Milne’s Take One Can: 80 Delicious Meals from the Cupboard. It’s a darling little book, but what struck me was the fact that very few cookbooks these days actually celebrate the can, and the timing for this one couldn’t have been more apropos!

Let’s face it, as Lola put it perfectly, the can is universal, affordable and accessible. And there’s no need for snobbery when it comes to cooking with canned food. In the age of Coronavirus/Covid19 – the can is definitely having its moment – and hasn’t been so popular in decades.

Photo: Lizzie Mayson

Take One Can is broken down into chapters by cans – Beans & Pulses, Tomatoes & Vegetables, Fish and Fruit & Sweet Cans – and each recipe has 10 or fewer ingredients. I recently reached out to Lola via Zoom, and here are some of things she told me. And check out the four recipes she shared at the bottom of the page.

Beans and Pulses:

These are a very important subsection of the can, and there are so many options out there – really enough really to fill an entire cookbook.  And they’re also so versatile.  I use a lot of canned lentils, white beans, kidney beans, chickpeas and black beans.  It’s so easy to open a can of beans and put your own spin on them.  One of my favorites from the book is Comforting Black Beans – they’re earthy, salty and smoky.  They’re great with rice, wrapped in a burrito or fried in a quesadilla.

Tomatoes & Vegetables:

 I generally go to canned tomatoes the most. But for me, canned artichokes were one of the greatest discoveries. There’s so much you can do with them, they’re delicious and you save loads of time not having to prepare them.  You just open a can, and there you are. Artichoke Carbonara is one of my favorite go-to recipes these days. Canned corn is definitely snubbed by a lot of people, but I absolutely love canned corn, and you can use it so creatively. It’s great in a soup – like Corn Chowder which is a lovely soft yellow and just sings with the color of spring! Corn Fritters are another one of my favorites – they’re easy to make and utterly delicious.

Fish: 

There are a lot of canned fish options out there.  Obviously, canned tuna is a popular option, but there are anchovies, mackerel, smoked mackerel and sardines that come in a variety of oils and marinades that I love.  Canned crab is delicious, and you save a lot of hassle with the cracking and cleaning.  The flavor is good, and it’s so much cheaper than fresh crab.  Canned smoked mackerel is one of my favorites.  The texture is good, and it’s incredibly versatile. It’s great flaked or mashed into a pate, but Mackerel Curry is one of my favorites.

Fruit & Sweet Cans: 

I think peaches, pineapple and pears are the real iconic fruits, but I’m a huge fan of canned figs.  I’m not sure how easy they are to find in the United States, but they’re readily available in the UK.  I find that dried figs can be such a disappointment because they’re often dry, but canned figs are consistently ripe, juicy and very figgy in flavor.  I also really like canned mango – it’s perfect in a chutney.  Canned fruit is perfect for breakfast, snacks and desserts.

Thanks to Lola Milne and Kyle Books for sharing the following recipes:

Sticky Potatoes with Spicy Tomato Sauce

Corn Chowder

Artichoke Carbonara

Comforting Black Beans

 

Jennifer Russell

Jennifer Russell is a founding producer at The Splendid Table. Before coming to radio, she made historical and arts and cultural programming for public television. She claims to have come out of the womb a food lover -- when other girls played house, she played restaurateur. Follow her comings and goings on Twitter: @jenejentweets.