Fish connoisseur Bart van Olphen – who you may know from his collaboration with Jamie Oliver and his company Fish Tales – loves canned fish. He even eats it for breakfast (!). He put together the ultimate borrel board with fish (from a can!) especially for Culy for the holidays. With six easy recipes that are irresistible.
For a serving board full:
For the crostini:
- 10-15 cherry tomatoes
- 2 garlic cloves, peeled, halved
- 1/4 bunch of thyme
- 1/2 sourdough bread in (or other firm bread)
- 1 can anchovies in olive oil (a 45 g), drained (23 g)
- 1/2 bunch basil, leaves only, torn
- extra virgin olive oil
- salt and pepper
For the pinxtos:
- 1 red bell pepper
- 1 yellow bell pepper
- 1 French baguette
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 1 garlic clove
- 1 can of anchovies
- 1 jar of green olives
- Tapas skewers
For the toast:
For the cod liver butter:
- 50 g cod liver (tin)
- 50 g butter, cut into small cubes and softened
- 2 tsp brandy
- salt and white pepper
For the tomato sandwich bread:
- 1⁄2 zucchini, cut into 1⁄2 cm strips
- 1⁄2 eggplant, cut into 1⁄2 cm strips
- 3 sprigs thyme, leaves stripped off
- splash of balsamic vinegar
- olive oil, extra virgin
- salt and pepper
For the grilled zucchini:
- 1 yellow zucchini
- 1 green zucchini
- 1 can of sardines in olive oil (120 g each), drained (85 g)
- 2 tbsp hazelnuts, roughly chopped
- ¼ bunch of mint, leaves only
- ½ pomegranate, seeds removed
- juice of ½ lemon
- olive oil
- salt and pepper
For the leek pie:
- 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 1 onion, thinly sliced
- 2 small leeks, cleaned, sliced
- 2 eggs
- 20 g butter
- 8 sheets phyllo dough, thawed
- 120 g soft, round goat cheese, sliced
- 2 cans of sardines in olive oil (120 g each), drained (170 g)
- ½ bunch tarragon, leaves only, roughly chopped
- olive oil
- salt and pepper
For the tuna salad:
- 1 can of tuna in sunflower oil (160 g each), drained (112 g)
- ½ red onion, chopped
- 1 spring onion, finely chopped
- ¼ bunch parsley, leaves only, roughly chopped
- 3 tbsp mayonnaise
Bart: “There’s a good chance you haven’t thought of canned fish yet when putting together your Christmas menu . I’m going to try to change that today. Believe me, you can go in all directions with canned fish, especially during the Christmas season!
Passion for canned fish
My great interest in canned fish arose during my holidays in the south of Europe. Beautifully designed cans with all kinds of fish inlaid in delicious oil, with or without additional seasonings, are offered there as a delicacy. Such a can is opened at the table and eaten with a piece of good bread and a good glass of wine.
I myself started experimenting with canned fish and have even written two cookbooks about it based on this passion. A big advantage if you dive into the kitchen with cans: the fish is already cooked for you. Then you can go wild with vegetables, herbs, vinegar or lemon (acid does not keep well in cans, that’s why you add it yourself) and carbohydrates, for example.
You can use canned fish for cold dishes such as salads, but it also goes very well in hot recipes. Did you know that in the early twentieth century it was already very common for the Christmas table to be full of luxury canned products such as asparagus, foie gras, truffle and, yes, canned fish? During the holidays, everything revolves around cozy dining, convenience and being together. I am happy to show you how you can let your guests enjoy with canned fish in the leading role.
At the beginning of the 19th century, products were preserved for the first time to prevent the spoilage of fresh foods. This invention came in response to the demand for long-life food for Napoleon’s French troops. A century later, the cans became a commercial success to feed the population growth during the industrial revolution.
Since then, the ‘tin can’ has become a mass product, with an infinite number of applications, and has become an indispensable part of the world of food.
Virtually all canned fish is wild caught. Many of the world’s fish stocks are under pressure, so it’s important to make the right choice. Therefore, always choose – easy to find on the packaging – for a can with the blue MSC quality mark.
For tuna, the choice is even more sensitive. Did you know that more than 90% of global canned tuna consumption is of unsustainable origin? Not only from a marine biological point of view, but also because better care must be taken of the fishermen.
Do you get a can of tuna at home? Then choose not only for MSC, but also that the tuna is caught with a rod and is Fair Trade certified. Fish Tales – the brand I founded after my many fishing trips – offers only sustainably certified fish preserves from the world’s most responsible fisheries.
Any time of the year
The great thing about canned fish is that the fish is caught at the peak of the season. So if it’s the best! Immediately after the catch, the fish is sterilized, so that the fish can be kept for at least five years. This way you can always enjoy the best fish at any time. Once in Brittany I was advised not to open my newly purchased can of sardines. “Put the can in a cool place and turn it over every few months. Then it will be even tastier.’
The quality of canned fish in the Netherlands can vary enormously per brand. Due to the enormous pressure of supermarkets to only offer cheap products, it is not easy to find the right quality on the shelf. With Fish Tales, on the other hand, we have chosen to work exclusively with the best fisheries and artisanal producers, in order to make the quality that we are used to in the Mediterranean countries now also available here in the large gritters.
As healthy as fresh fish
There is a persistent prejudice that canned fish is less healthy than fresh fish, but trust me, both are equally healthy. Fish is canned almost immediately after being caught, which means that the nutrients are optimally preserved. Fatty fish in cans is therefore just as full of omega 3.
In fact, one can of herring or sardines contains enough vitamin D to meet your daily intake. A nice boost for your immune system for the cold Christmas days!
Canned fish at Christmas
I myself am a fan of canned fish all year round. For lunch, drinks or yes, even for breakfast. I would like to show you that you can put the tastiest and most beautiful dishes on the table in no time during the holidays. I wish you a very Merry Christmas and I hope to inspire you with these six festive recipes.”
Drinks board with canned fish: 6 recipes
1. Crostini with tomato confit and anchovies
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius.
Heat a splash of olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Cut the cherry tomatoes in half and place them cut-side down in the oil. Turn the heat to low, add the garlic and thyme sprigs and let the tomatoes, with a lid on the pan, become soft and tender for 10-12 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and let cool.
Slice the sourdough bread and cut the slices in half. Toast the bread in the oven.
Top the slices of bread with the candied tomatoes. Discard the garlic and thyme sprigs. Spread over the anchovy fillets, sprinkle with basil leaves and drizzle with olive oil.
2. Pinxtos with roasted peppers and anchovies
Heat the griddle pan and roast the peppers , skin side down, until the skin is blackened.
Cut the baguette into diagonal slices and toast the bread in the oven. Rub the slices with the half garlic cloves .
Remove the skin from the bell pepper, cut the flesh into thin strips and spread over the bread. Divide the anchovy fillets over it. Thread 1 olive onto each skewer and poke through the anchovies into the bread.
3. Toast with grilled vegetables and cod liver butter
Preheat the oven to 180°C.
For the butter, press the cod liver pieces with the back of a spoon through a fine sieve to create a kind of mousse. Mix the mousse with the butter and the cognac to a smooth paste. Season with salt and white pepper . Spoon the mixture onto a piece of plastic wrap and roll up. Let it set in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
Cut the sandwich bread in half into triangles. Place the pieces of bread on a rack in the preheated oven and bake for 4 minutes until crisp and golden brown. Remove them from the oven and let them cool.
Sprinkle the aubergine and courgette slices with salt and pepper and drizzle with some olive oil. Heat the grill pan and grill the vegetable slices in batches.
Place the vegetable slices on a plate. Drizzle with balsamic vinegar and season with some salt and pepper. Garnish with the thyme leaves .
Remove the cod liver butter from the refrigerator and serve the butter, vegetables and toast separately.
4. Grilled Zucchini with Sardines and Pomegranate Seeds
Preheat the oven to 220°C
Cut the courgettes lengthwise into long slices. Sprinkle the slices with salt and pepper and drizzle with some olive oil . Heat the grill pan and grill the zucchini slices in batches.
Heat the sardines in the oven for 3 minutes on a baking tray lined with baking paper.
Meanwhile, heat a frying pan over medium heat and toast the hazelnuts in the dry pan until lightly coloured. Set aside.
Place the zucchini slices on a plate. Divide the sardines over the zucchini, sprinkle with the hazelnuts, mint leaves , pomegranate seeds , salt and pepper, and drizzle with lemon juice and olive oil.
5. Leek tart with tarragon and sardines
Heat a dash of olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat and fry the garlic and onion for 3-4 minutes until soft. Add the leek and fry for 3-4 minutes. Let the mixture cool slightly.
Beat the eggs in a bowl and season with salt and pepper . Stir in the cooled leek mixture and set aside. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 200°C.
Line a low cake tin with baking paper and melt the butter in a saucepan. Place a sheet of filo dough in the cake tin and brush with butter. Place the next sheet on top and repeat until the cake pan is completely covered.
Pour the leek mixture onto the dough, press in the goat cheese slices and divide the sardines over it. Sprinkle with the tarragon .
Bake the pie in the oven for 20 minutes until golden brown and cooked through. Serve lukewarm.
6. Tuna salad
Mix all ingredients in a bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Serve with some toast or bread.
Tip: serve a can of sardines, smoked mussels from a pot, anchovies with capers and some crackers/bread separately with the canned fish drink.