Trends & Recipes

The new trend in preserved seafood

No longer the answer to month-end penury or questionable casseroles, tinned fish is taking its turn to feature as a desirable ingredient.

06 February 2020 - 09:45 By Georgia East
Tinned fish is taking its turn to feature as a desirable ingredient.
Tinned fish is taking its turn to feature as a desirable ingredient.
Image: Georgia East

With international chefs and food writers trumpeting its pleasures, tinned seafood is now more on trend than ever before.

In his debut offering The Whole Fish Cookbook (2019), Australian chef Josh Niland highlighted the versatility of fish - with ocean trout sausage and octopus terrine with parsley among his many innovative seafood creations.

Operating from his Sydney-based restaurant Saint Peter, Niland cures, smokes, salts and ages a variety of fish, shellfish and cephalopods. His "fish butchery" skills have since become a trending topic in the food industry, with more and more fish enthusiasts introduced to an alternative way of cooking and consuming seafood.

Endorsed by Jamie Oliver, chef-turned-seafood activist Bart van Olphen is the founder of Fish Tales, an organisation that supports sustainable and responsible fishing practices. Starting with small-scale fishers, Fish Tales aims to support, educate and promote the catching and sale of sustainable seafood species.

Fish Tales elevates seafood that's sometimes seen as unexciting, with Bart’s 2016 Cooking with Tinned Fish boosting the reputation of humble catches like sardines, tuna and mussels preserved in tins.

Closer to home, Tamsin Snyman’s 2017 cookbook Seven Colours with Fish highlighted the versatility of the unpretentious pilchard, the submissive sardine and the modest mackerel.

Collaborating with SA seafood company Lucky Star, Tamsin took the products this iconic brand has stocked for the past 50 years and brought them into the present, giving Lucky Star a contemporary appeal that goes far beyond sardines on toast (not that there's anything wrong with sardines on toast).

Readily available in most local supermarkets, tinned fish is an affordable and versatile addition to any meal, while the omega-3 content in oily fish such as sardines and mackerel is exceptionally good for helping to lower blood pressure and increase heart health.

In the following four recipes, seafood author Georgia East shows just how appealing tinned fish can be.

Marinated octopus with burrata.
Marinated octopus with burrata.
Image: Georgia East

MARINATED OCTOPUS WITH BURRATA

Unfortunately there's no locally produced tinned octopus, but you can find a version packed in brine with garlic by Portuguese brand Gabriel at Giovanni’s Deli in Cape Town.

Serves: 2

Ingredients:

1 tin (approx 106g) chopped octopus in brine, drained

Juice and zest of ½ lemon

10ml flat leaf parsley, finely chopped

6-10 baby capers

20ml marinated artichokes, roughly chopped

Coarsely ground sea salt and black pepper

1 x 125g ball burrata

Extra virgin olive oil

Caper berries to garnish (optional)

Crusty bread, to serve

Method:

1. In a bowl, combine the first five ingredients and season to taste. Leave the octopus to marinate at room temperature for 15–20 minutes.

2. Arrange the burrata on a plate and spoon the marinated octopus around the cheese.

3. Drizzle a glug of grassy olive oil and scatter over extra caper berries, if using.

4. Serve the octopus with crusty bread and a chilled glass of Intellego’s unfiltered Pink Moustache Syrah/Cinsault/Mourvedre rosé.


Sardine pâté.
Sardine pâté.
Image: Georgia East

SARDINE PÂTÉ

An impressively speedy starter to enjoy with MCC, this take on French rillettes is also delicious served on toast with a soft-poached egg for breakfast.

Makes: about 500ml (2 cups)

Ingredients:

300g tinned sardines, drained

60ml butter, softened

15ml lemon juice

10ml lemon zest

1 small clove garlic, crushed

10ml dried chilli flakes (optional)

Coarsely ground sea salt and black pepper

Extra virgin olive oil

Method:

1. In a bowl, combine the sardines, butter, lemon juice and zest, garlic and chilli flakes.

2. Season with pepper but not salt.

3. Either transfer the fish mixture to a high-powered food processor or use an immersion blender to blitz the mixture into a smooth paste. If the fish paste is too thick, add in a little olive oil to loosen it to a spreadable consistency.

4. Taste and season the fish paste with salt if required.

5. The fish paste will last up to a week in the refrigerator and is best eaten on hot, buttery toast - but can also be used a flavour base in soups, stews and stocks.


Smoked oyster gratin.
Smoked oyster gratin.
Image: Georgia East

SMOKED OYSTER GRATIN

Adapted from blogger Lady and Pups’ recipe, this take on a retro snail starter is as decadent as it is simple.

Smoked oysters work particularly well, but plump mussels can be substituted. Retain the oil that the oysters are preserved in, as this is used in place of butter for an addictive umami flavour.

Serves: 2

Ingredients:

1 tin (85g) smoked mussels, oil retained

125ml fresh cream

1 small clove garlic, crushed

200g Parmesan cheese, grated

Coarsely ground sea salt and black pepper

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 200°C.

2. Remove the oysters from the tin and arrange them in a small shallow ovenproof dish.

3. Combine the cream and garlic and pour over the oysters. Drizzle about 20ml of the oyster oil over the cream and scatter the grated Parmesan over the top.

4. Season the dish with black pepper and a small amount of salt.

5. Bake the oysters in the oven for 10-15 minutes or until the cheese is golden and bubbling.

6. Serve immediately with crusty bread and a chilled glass of MCC.


Spanish-style sardines on toast.
Spanish-style sardines on toast.
Image: Georgia East

SPANISH-STYLE SARDINES ON TOAST

Perfect for an al fresco lunch, this interpretation of the Spanish pan con tomate uses silvery sardines to lend oceanic appeal to this light tapas-style snack.

Serves: 2

Ingredients:

1 clove garlic, peeled

2 large slices sourdough bread, lightly toasted

2 medium-sized, very ripe tomatoes

1 tin (105g) sardines in oil

Coarse ground sea salt and black pepper

Extra virgin olive oil

Method:

1. Roughly rub the garlic clove along each slice of sourdough.

2. Halve the tomatoes and push them into the bread, making sure to squash the flesh and seeds into the sourdough.

3. Top the slices with a few sardines and season with salt, pepper and a glug of olive oil.

4. Serve immediately with lots of napkins.