Not as crappy as you’d think.
I have about two dozen cookbooks, packed full of glorious, mouthwatering recipes, tarted up with full colour photographs. But do I ever use them? Not a hope. Cook book cookery takes planning. You need to plan, make a list, do the bloody shopping, then come home and cook it. Who has time for that? Well I do, once a year, at Christmas, and the washing up takes a month.
There is another way. The way of the tin.
To follow the way of the tin, here’s what you need to do: Four times a year, go buy a car load of tinned food. There’s no list! But get a good variety, and buy loads of each one. You can get anything in a tin. Fruit, veg, legumes, meat, fish and quite a lot of stuff that is completely uncategorizable as actual food.
So, you make it home, it’s quarter past eight and you have nothing in the fridge. Do you turn around and head to the chipper? Do you nestle into a dark corner with a block of cheddar and a grim smile? No! You simply go to the magical, never ending tin cupboard and you whip up something in 5 minutes flat!
Cooking from tins has a number of very tangible benefits:
1: Super simple to prep
2: They never go off. How’s that for sustainable?
3: It’s cheap as hell.
4: In the event of nuclear winter, you’re sorted!
OK, so living from tins probably isn’t nutritionally ideal. I’m pretty sure that fresh fruit and veg are fairly crucial to a balanced diet. But compared to chicken balls and curry sauce, I reckon you’re still ahead on points. So, can you make tasty, quick food with nothing but tins? Well, there are some other ingredients to this suggestion, but they are all long-life, back of cupboard things, and these recipes have evolved from doing precisely that – mixing up things from the back of the cupboard with a couple of tins.
Tuna and chickpea salad.
This basic protein/pulse mix can be made differently every time by changing which type of pulses you use and the dressings you add. Artichoke hearts and roasted peppers are also back of cupboard staples that can really tart it up. But each variation is quick, really filling, healthy and relatively cheap. Oil that hasn’t been denatured by cooking is good for you, so don’t be stingy. Tuna is high in protein, as are the pulses, which are good carbs. One word of warning. Be prepared for some unavoidable chickpea level flatulence.
Tin: John West no-drain Tuna (Tins for extra lazy people) (€1.50 – Tesco)
Tin: chickpeas (0.39c)
Tin: sweetcorn (0.59c)
Toasted sesame oil (€1.89)
Sunflower seeds (€1.50 for 300g)
Step 1. Open all the tins and chuck them all in a big bowl. If you feel ashamed about how easy this is, you can kill some time rinsing off the things that were in the tin, but there is really no need.
Step 2: Drizzle over some oil. I like toasted sesame, but walnut oil is also really good. If you’re trying to force feed yourself Udo’s oil, lash it in now. You can also chuck in balsamiq vinegar, or squeeze over some lemon or lime juice if you happen to have any.
Step 3. Sprinkle over some sunflower seeds. Toast them first in a dry pan if you could be arsed. You can substitute these with any nuts or seeds you have. I’ve used pine nuts, crushed hazlenuts, brazils, they’re all good.
Step 4: Scoff until you’re full, put the rest in a lunchbox in the fridge for lunch tomorrow. Also works as quite a tasty wrap filler.
Total cost for dinner and enough leftovers for a wrap: About €2.50.
Creamy Chicken Bake
This one takes a bit longer to cook but if you have to cook for lots of people and you have nothing (not even an onion) you can still pull this off. You will need the chicken obviously, but the rest is all nuclear bunker cupboard foolproof. What you’ll need:
Tin of condensed chicken soup
Pasta (or quick cook grains)
White wine or stock cube
- Chop chicken. Crack over some black pepper if you want to feel like you’re doing proper cooking, like what adults do. Two breasts per tin of condensed soup. In our house, one breast is not enough for one person, but then, we eat a lot. So four breasts, two tins. Chuck the chicken into a baking dish.
- Pour over the tin of condensed chicken and mushroom soup. I like to rinse out the tins with white wine, or maybe a cup of chicken stock, because it is quite thick. Water is also fine, but I just gave you an excuse to open wine. (You’re welcome)
- Bake in oven for about 40 minutes at 180 degrees, or until the chicken is cooked through. You can use two forks to shred the chicken. Shredded meat dissolves into the sauce, with the added benefit of allowing you to make sure its properly cooked, and this avoids unfortunate food poisoning incidents.
- Serve with pasta, rice, or my favourite, Tesco quick cook grains, which give it a bit of extra crunch.
If you want to fancify, you can soak dried porcini mushrooms, chop up and throw in just before it goes in the oven. You can also pan-fry fresh mushrooms with garlic if you have any. Also good in this is chopped, fried bacon. But who am I kidding, everything is better with bacon.