From the heat of Michelin-star kitchens in Paris, to travelling the world and meeting fishermen to fully understand sustainable seafood practices, Bart van Olphen's knowledge of fish, and how to prepare it, is excellent.
He's funnelled that knowledge, and the thoughts and ideas of men and women who fish for a living, into new recipe collection, The Tinned Fish Cookbook. In it, he takes the humble can of seafood and shows you how versatile, healthy and sustainable (with a long shelf-life) the contents can be. But mostly, reveals how much taste and flavour can be packed in beneath the ring-pull.
Here's what you need to know…
The book: The Tinned Fish Cookbook by Bart van Olphen.
Who will love it? Quite frankly, everyone. If cooking sometimes feels like a chore, tinned fish promises something new (if you're straying from tuna), something affordable, and something that will keep in the cupboard for months – if not years – on end. It's the ultimate store-cupboard, what-is-there-for-dinner, back-up ingredient.
What is it trying to get us cooking? Quite literally, tinned fish. On the continent, it is scoffed as a matter of course, largely from beautifully designed tins that contain silky, oily, preserved treats that can pep up a dish, or become the main focus of one. And yet, in the UK and Ireland, the potential contained in the tinned fish aisle at the supermarket is very often overlooked, or even actively avoided. Tinned fish, though, can provide tasty omega-3s cheaply and easily. It's also incredibly adaptable, and MSC-approved options are readily available.
Van Olphen's recipes offer an accessible route into experimenting with, and making the most of, all this tinned seafood we so regularly walk past – think tuna lasagne, sardine and leek tart, mackerel and mushroom risotto, and smoked herring shakshuka.
How easy is it to use? Very. The fish itself is already bone-free, filleted and prepped to go, and the recipe methods are reassuringly short. In some cases, it's assembly more than actual cooking (after all, the tinned fish is already cooked). Your main obstacle will be winning over anyone in your household who believes they have an aversion to tinned fish – but hopefully the taste should solve that issue.
The best recipe is… It's a toss up between the salmon fish cakes with chimichurri, the mackerel asparagus salad with sesame vinaigrette (recipe below) and the anchovies with confit tomato on toast. Yum.
The recipe we're most likely to post pictures of on Instagram is… The tuna melt with ketchup – it just looks so oozy and decadent and golden.
The dish we're least likely to try is… Salmon scrambled eggs on toast, mainly because it's so simple, we probably wouldn't need to refer to the recipe at all (which is no bad thing).
Overall rating: 8/10 – smart, concise and filled with recipes that are bright and colourful, rather than the metal-grey and brown you might expect from tinned food (especially tinned fish). It's an astute, refreshing and encouraging collection.
How to make mackerel asparagus salad with sesame vinaigrette from The Tinned Fish Cookbook by Bart van Olphen…
(Serves 2 as a side dish)
For the salad:
200g green asparagus, tough ends cut off
125g tin of mackerel in sunflower oil, drained
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 spring onion, thinly sliced into rings
Handful of purple shiso leaves (optional)
For the sesame vinaigrette:
2tbsp sunflower oil
1tbsp white sesame seeds
1tbsp black sesame seeds
3tbsp rice vinegar
1 &12;tbsp soy sauce
1. To make the asparagus: Place a grill pan over high heat. Brush the asparagus with some olive oil and roast for six to eight minutes—turning frequently—until slightly charred in places. Let them cool a little before cutting into one-inch (3-4cm) pieces.
2. To make the vinaigrette: Heat the sunflower oil in a frying pan over medium-high heat, add both types of sesame seed, and stir-fry until the seeds change colour and release their fragrance. Transfer the seeds to a small bowl and leave to cool.
3. Pour the vinegar, mirin, and soy sauce into the bowl with the sesame seeds and beat with a fork until smooth. Set the dressing aside.
4. Put the green asparagus on a platter, drizzle with half of the dressing, and toss together. Break the mackerel into pieces and arrange over the asparagus salad. Drizzle with a bit more of the dressing and season with salt and pepper. Serve the asparagus topped with the spring onion, shiso leaves, if using, and the rest of the dressing.
The Tinned Fish Cookbook: Easy-to-Make Meals from Ocean to Plate â Sustainably Canned, 100% Delicious by Bart van Olphen. Translation by The Experiment (experimentpublishing.com). Photography David Loftus. Priced GBP 14.99. Available now.