The answer to less food waste?

in Food and Drink · 14-02-2020 01:00:00 · 0 Comments

Want to shop less and save money? Lauren Taylor chats to food writer Lola Milne about the joys of food from a can.

It's pretty much a given that at the back of most people's kitchen cupboards, are several cans we've had for years and totally forgotten about. Perhaps a tin of tuna or some kidney beans you once had such good intentions for (sitting next to all those spices you moved from your last house).

However, as we all seek to be a little more sustainable and less wasteful, canned food may be about to have its moment in the kitchen spotlight once more.

"I feel like tinned food sits in people's minds in a time gone by when you were struggling, or rationing, when people turned to tins when you don't have anything else," says Lola Milne, author of new cookbook, Take One Tin.

She says there's a snobbery and "silly" perception around food that comes in a tin. In much of continental Europe, there's a different attitude. "Especially with tinned fish; I was in Seville and all the tapas bars have huge sections of the menu that's all to do with preserved fish. In Spain and Portugal, they're a premium product and they go all the way down to being a budget product - there's not really a judgement there," she says.

Milne thinks we'd waste less if we incorporated more tinned food in our diets. "I throw away very little food. I always have beans and fish already [in cans] and loads of different oils and spices, so I buy a few fresh things every week, but not that much on a regular basis.

"People will just go crazy and buy loads of fresh stuff and then they don't know what they're going to do with it. If you do that with tins, it's fine, because they'll be there in 10 years."

The problem is, at the moment, most "people don't necessarily use tins in overly creative ways".

The 27-year-old's debut cookbook is a collection of everyday and more inventive recipes - all using at least one key tinned ingredient. Think crab thoran, flageolet bean and artichoke gratin, and sweetcorn and cheese muffin loaf. It's a colourful, refreshing take on ingredients we often think of as "boring basics you bung into a bolognese", as Milne says, with a focus on beans and pulses, fish, fruit and vegetables.

There's no meat, because she doesn't think canned meat is as tasty as its fresh counterpart and tends to be "really highly processed and fatty", plus "we should all eat less meat", she says.

Cheap, long-lasting and time-saving (because more tins equals less shopping, and who wants to regularly traipse around supermarkets?), the humble tin deserves its place in your store cupboard - and it may be time to add a few more.


A warming ragu is perfect for winter - and you can knock this veggie one up in no time.

"When I was growing up, my aunty Sophie often made a big pan of tomatoey lentils when we went round. This version is a nod to a traditional Italian meat ragu, but I have added soft aubergine instead and served with soft polenta and wilted greens," says Milne.


(serves six)

6tbsp olive oil

2 onions, finely chopped

2 aubergines, cut into 2.5cm cubes

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1/2tsp fennel seeds

2 bay leaves

A pinch of chilli flakes

200ml red wine

2 x 400g tins beluga lentils, drained and rinsed

2 x 400g tins chopped tomatoes

Salt and freshly ground black pepper


1. In a large frying pan, heat two tablespoons of the oil, add the onions and soften over a low heat for about 10-15 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, in another frying pan, heat the remaining oil, add the aubergines and a pinch of salt, then fry on high for five to 10 minutes, stirring often until the aubergine cubes are golden. Set aside.

3. By this point, the onions should be soft and tinged golden. Add the garlic, fennel seeds, bay leaves and chilli flakes. Fry for a further two to three minutes, then tip in the wine. Bring to the boil and boil until it has reduced by two-thirds in volume (this shouldn't take more than five minutes).

4. Last but not least, add the lentils, tomatoes and the browned aubergine cubes. Season and reduce the heat, then simmer for 15-20 minutes until the sauce has thickened a little and the aubergine is buttery soft.

5. Just before serving, fish out the bay leaves. This ragu is great with soft polenta, pasta or served simply with a hunk of bread.

Rocky road

After a rocky road recipe that's a little different? Rocky road's traditional marshmallow stickiness has been replaced by tinned figs in this recipe - and it might be better than the original.


(Makes 10 bars)

170g slightly salted butter, diced

335g dark chocolate, broken into squares

4tbs golden syrup

120g walnuts, toasted and roughly chopped

120g amaretti biscuits, broken into small pieces (digestives, lotus or hobnobs would also work well)

425g tin figs in syrup, drained and chopped


1. Line a 20cm square brownie tin with greaseproof paper.

2. In a medium saucepan, slowly melt together the butter, chocolate and golden syrup, then fold in most of the walnuts, biscuits and figs.

3. Tip into the prepared tin, spreading evenly, and top with the remaining ingredients. Chill in the fridge to firm up (about two to three hours minimum) before cutting into 10 bars.

Vietnamese crab cakes

"These are inspired by a Vietnamese dish of fish marinated in lots of turmeric, ginger and garlic, pan-fried and served with the classic Vietnamese dressing Nuoc cham. I've repurposed these flavours into crisp crab cakes," she says.


(Serves two)

For the crab cakes:

2 x 170g tins lump crab meat, drained

2.5cm piece of fresh ginger, peeled and grated (about 1 and 1/2 tablespoons when grated)

1 red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped

1 garlic clove, finely chopped

15g dill, finely chopped

1tsp ground turmeric

2 shallots, finely chopped

10tbsp dried breadcrumbs

2 eggs, beaten

1tbsp flavourless oil (such as sunflower)

For the dressing:

4tsp fish sauce juice of 1 lime

4tsp soft brown sugar

1 red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped

1 garlic clove, finely chopped


1. To make the crab cakes, mix the crab, ginger, chilli, garlic, dill, turmeric, shallots, four tablespoons of the breadcrumbs and half the beaten eggs in a bowl. Shape into eight patties and stick in the fridge to firm up for at least 20 minutes.

2. To make the dressing, mix all the ingredients with two tablespoons of water, check the balance of sour, sweet and salty and adjust accordingly.

3. Just before frying, dip each cake in the remaining beaten egg and then into the remaining breadcrumbs to coat. Heat the oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat and fry the cakes for four minutes per side until golden.

4. Serve alongside the dressing, for drizzling or dunking.

Top tip: Try nestling a crab cake in a lettuce leaf with some finely sliced cucumber, then drizzle with the dressing.

Take One Tin by Lola Milne is published by Kyle Books. Available now.


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