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Fresh From the Can

A well-stocked pantry is the best defense against sudden pangs of hunger. Here are six quick fixes with a little help from the can.

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Canned fish provides a good basis for a wide range of dishes from quick toasted snacks to sturdy main courses.

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Sardine and Tomato Bruschetta

Sardines on toast get a new twist.

Serves 2:
1 ciabatta loaf
1 clove garlic
2-3 firm, ripe tomatoes
Salt and black pepper
Olive oil
125 g canned sardines
Basil, arugula or watercress
Lemon juice or balsamic
Vinegar, optional

Toast four thick slices from the ciabatta, then rub one surface of each with the cut clove of garlic. Cut the tomatoes into chunks, pile them onto the bruschetta, season and drizzle generously with olive oil. Drain the sardines and lay them on top. Scatter leaves of basil, arugula or watercress around the plate. If you feel the fish is too oily, sprinkle a little lemon juice or some balsamic vinegar on the salad.

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Smoked Oyster and Potato Pan-Fry

Canned smoked oysters need no cooking and they add a rich, unusual flavour to this one-pan meal.

Serves 2:
1 clove garlic
2 tablespoons olive oil
450 g potatoes
A bunch of green onions or chives
100 g canned smoked oysters
4 sun-dried tomatoes
Salt and black pepper

Peel and thickly slice the garlic and fry it very gently for 3-4 minutes in the olive oil in a large, non-stick frying pan. Peel or scrub the potatoes and cut them into ½-inch cubes. Remove the garlic from the pan and discard it, add the diced potatoes in a single layer, and fry over a fairly high heat, stirring often, until they are golden brown. Trim, rinse and chop the green onions or chives. Drain the oysters and cut them in half, then drain and chop the sun-dried tomatoes. When the potatoes are nearly done, add the onions or chives and cook for 1 minute. Stir in the oysters and tomatoes and heat through for 2 minutes. Season and serve.

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Salmon Filo Wraps

Chilled filo pastry means you don’t have to wait for the pastry to defrost.

Serves 2 (main), 4 (appetizer):
4 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons plain flour
½ cup milk
1 can (213 g) red salmon
½ can (341 ml) asparagus tips
A sprig of fresh dill or ½ teaspoon of dried dill weed
Salt and black pepper
2 sheets filo pastry

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Make a sauce by whisking together half the butter with the flour and milk in a saucepan over a moderate heat, until it comes to the boil and thickens. Let it simmer for 1 minute, then pour it into a bowl. Drain the salmon, remove any skin and bones, and flake the flesh into the sauce. Drain and add the asparagus tips. Snip or stir in the dill; season generously.

Melt the remaining butter. Lay the sheets of filo pastry on top of each other, cut out four 7-inch squares and brush each with melted butter. Spoon a quarter of the salmon mixture into the center of each square and fold up the corners to make a wrap. Brush the outside with butter and place on a greased baking tray. Bake for 12-15 minutes, until golden.

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Crab and Pea Tart

A prebaked pastry case is quickly filled with crab in a creamy sauce to make a mouthwatering flan.

Serves 4:
2 medium eggs
Salt and black pepper
½ teaspoon ground mace
2 cans (120 g) crab meat
½ cup frozen peas
2 green onions
1/3 cup whipping cream
3 tablespoons cooking sherry
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan
9-inch pre-baked pastry case

Preheat the oven to 400°F. In a bowl, beat the eggs with seasoning and mace. Stir in the crab meat and its liquor. Defrost the peas in boiling water and drain, chop the green onions, and add both to the bowl. Stir in the cream, sherry and some Parmesan.

Use the mixture to fill the flan case and place it, in its foil container, on a heavy baking sheet. Sprinkle the rest of the Parmesan on top and bake two-thirds of the way up the oven for 20 minutes.

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Noodles with Anchovy Sauce

A truly simple sauce from Sicily and Venice gets its impact from the intense flavour of anchovies.

Serves 4:
230 g buckwheat or plain noodles
2 tablespoons currants
1 large clove garlic
1 sprig fresh rosemary
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 lemon
2 cans (50 g) anchovies
2 tablespoons pine kernels
Black pepper
Fresh mint, optional

Boil a large pan of water, add the noodles, and cook them according to the directions on the package. Put the currants to soak in a spoonful of boiling water from the pasta pan. Fry the garlic and rosemary in the olive oil over a moderate heat until they begin to color, then discard them. Grate the lemon rind.

Place the frying pan on top of the pan of boiling pasta as the next step needs only a very gentle heat, and stir in the canned anchovies, their oil, the pine kernels and the  drained currants and lemon rind.

Cook until the anchovies melt to form a sauce. If the mixture seems too dry, add 1-2 tablespoons of hot water from the pasta. Season with black pepper, pour it over the drained noodles, and garnish, if you like, with chopped mint.

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Tuna Salad

A very substantial salad that tastes especially good made in the morning to eat in the garden for lunch.

Serves 4:
4 eggs
1 cup frozen peas
560 g canned new potatoes
2 cans (170 g) tuna in oil
2 medium carrots
1 lemon
Salt and black pepper
300 mL mayonnaise
A bunch of chives or flat-leaved parsley

Hard-boil the eggs and put the peas into a pan of boiling water to cook for 3 minutes. Drain the potatoes, rinse and pat dry, then slice them into a serving bowl. Drain the oil from the tuna into a measuring jug, flake the tuna onto the potatoes, and peel and grate in the carrots.

Drain the peas and rinse under a cold tap. Cool and shell the eggs, cut them into quarters, and add them and the peas to the bowl.

Squeeze the lemon juice into the tuna oil. Add salt, black pepper and enough mayonnaise to make it up to 1 ½ cups. Whisk and stir through the salad. Sprinkle with chopped chives or parsley, cover and chill. Garnish with chives.