Tins for the win: Three tasty, thrifty recipes to see you right until pay day
Crispy fish cakes, spicy pasta, chakalaka chicken — if you have canned goods in the cupboard, you have the makings for a budget-friendly meal
Januworry has been a very long month. Pay day may be on the horizon, but when the food kitty is low and it comes to putting meals together, it can feel like it is still many moons away.
Take heart. Remember those canned goods squirrelled away in the back of the store cupboard that didn’t get a second look at the beginning of the month? I hit on three in my pantry, and with a little inspiration they became the saving grace for a trio of meals.
They included chopped tomatoes, the perennial standby that can save many a meal; boring tuna that always needs a good makeover to make it feel like it’s not diet food; and a can of chakalaka, the spicy and colourful contents of which are like a magic wand bringing zing and pizzazz to any dish.
Using simple recipes and a few added pantry ingredients, I transformed them into thrifty and tasty suppers: crispy Asian fish cakes, spicy penne arrabiata and an easy chakalaka chicken casserole.
CRISPY ASIAN FISH CAKES
This is a great standby recipe because it takes a tin of tuna to another level of deliciousness, and any leftovers make a great snack or lunchbox filler.
If you prefer you can replace the tuna with a can of pink salmon, well drained and removing the skin and bones, or pilchards, the plain ones, well drained and mashed.
Makes: 12-18 fish cakes, depending on size
2 x 170g tins tuna chunks, drained
Handful fresh parsley or coriander, finely chopped
1 red chilli, seeded and chopped
60g (1 cup) fresh white breadcrumbs
15ml (1 tbsp) fish sauce
Finely grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
Small knob of ginger, peeled and grated — or use 5ml (1 tsp) ground ginger
Salt and black pepper, to taste
Cake flour, for dusting
Sunflower oil, for frying
Sweet chilli sauce, to serve
- Combine the tinned fish, parsley, fresh chilli, breadcrumbs, fish sauce, lemon juice and zest and ginger in a bowl to make a batter. If too runny, add extra breadcrumbs.
- Season and shape into balls with wet hands. Flatten into discs, coat lightly in flour and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
- Heat about 3cm oil in a pan and fry the fish cakes until golden on both sides. Drain on a paper towel.
- Serve with sweet chilli dipping sauce.
A spicy pasta dish featuring a handful of simple ingredients. The beauty of the recipe is its versatility. If you don’t have pancetta replace it with streaky bacon or chopped chorizo, as I did, or leave it out for a vegetarian option.
For the young ones, omit the chilli and serve it on the side in a little olive oil for chilli lovers to help themselves. If you don’t have fresh basil use parsley or origanum, add a teaspoon of mixed dried herbs.
30ml (2 tbsp) olive oil
1-3 chillies, seeded and finely sliced
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
60g pancetta, cut into strips
2 x 400g cans chopped tomatoes
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Pinch of sugar
500g penne pasta
A handful of fresh basil, torn
Parmesan cheese, to serve
- Heat the oil in a large frying pan and fry the chilli and garlic for a minute. Add the pancetta and cook until crisp.
- Add the tomatoes, seasoning and sugar and simmer on gentle heat for 30 minutes, stirring from time to time.
- Cook the penne in plenty of salted boiling water until al dente. Drain, saving a 30ml (2 tbsp) of pasta water.
- Add the basil to the sauce and cook for 3 minutes and add the reserved pasta water.
- Toss the sauce through the pasta and serve with Parmesan cheese.
EASY CHAKALAKA CHICKEN CASSEROLE
With two cans — one of chakalaka and one of a tomato and onion mix — and chutney, you can turn dull chicken pieces into a saucy feast.
If you’d like to stretch the meal, add more can magic like baked beans, chickpeas or lentils, drained and rinsed.
Serve with a starch - a great filler - like rice, pap, boiled or mashed potatoes or crusty bread to soak up the tasty juices.
1kg chicken portions, skin on
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 x 410g tin tomato and onion mix
1 x 410g tin hot and spicy chakalaka
2 tbsp chutney
Yoghurt and fresh coriander, to serve
- Preheat oven to 180ºC.
- Place the chicken in a baking dish and season with salt and pepper.
- Mix the tomato and onion mix, chakalaka and chutney together and pour over the chicken pieces.
- Bake for 45 minutes until the chicken is cooked.
- Serve the chicken topped with a dollop of yoghurt and garnished with fresh coriander. — Hein van Tonder