I enjoy canned fish in all its guises. Not only is it a convenient pantry item but I love the diversity of packaging – sometimes super-sophisticated, sometimes downright daggy. I couldn’t resist buying a trio of pictorial sardine cans in Cassis a few years ago. One was of craggy petanque players in a town square, another of a baker remonstrating to a guilty looking cat. I still have the empty cans. On a family holiday in Burgundy, I discovered a store devoted to canned fish in Chagny. It’s called Poissonnerie Keronan and chock-a-block with canned sardines, anchovies, herrings and much more. Pop in next time you’re passing. Or reach into your cupboard for a fishy can guaranteed to enhance any meal.
Sirena Tuna Joanne tuna pasta + 2019 Mania Pinot Noir, Tasmania, A$35
My wife is a reluctant cook. The first meal she cooked for me was her version of tuna pasta. It was delicious and remains her signature dish. Sirena is the tuna we use – the chilli oil version her favourite. As a dedicated (light) red drinker, she loves a lithe, fine-boned pinot noir and the Mania fits the bill perfectly.
Vitello Tonnato Lucio’s + 2019 Conterno Fantino Bricco Bastia Dolcetto d’Alba, Piedmont, Italy, A$37
A much more sophisticated canned tuna dish was Lucio Galletto’s take on a classic vitello tonnato. Having closed his Sydney restaurant known for fine food, quirky art and colourful clients, I’m on the lookout for a contender that will live up to his creamy textured, real (milk-fed) veal benchmark. Meanwhile I’ve tried my hand at home with mixed results. Still the wine was good; the Conterno Fantino Bricco Bastia is a bouncy dolcetto with tangy red berry flavours and an acid-etched finale.
Sardines on toast + 2019 Quartier Pinot Gris, Mornington Peninsula, A$30
We have an open fire in Orange and Sunday night’s dinner is served fireside, often it’s simple sardines on toast using the weird and wonderful cans I’ve collected from all over. A fino sherry works well, but an unctuous white makes a great alternative. Quartier is Port Phillip Estate’s everyday label and their pinot gris a vinous marvel. Don’t overchill it.
Ortiz Anchovies with Pizza + 2019 Maretti Chianti, Tuscany, Italy, A$25
Ortiz anchovies are a pantry mainstay and a must on home-made pizza. I add olives and capers to create my version of a pizza Napoli. A savoury, mid-weight red is the go and none better than the value-packed Maretti Chianti – a highly palatable sangiovese at its very best.
Pintxos Gilda Pepper, Olive, and Anchovy Skewers + 2020 Txomin Etxaniz Txakoli, País Vasco, Spain, A$44
I was due to take a group to Spain last year, but Covid-19 meant the event was postponed. I had been looking forward to my first visit to Getaria in the Basque country near San Sebastian. It’s home to the vibrant, fizzante Txakolina Getariako white wine that I’ve been enamoured of since being introduced to it by Scott Waseley of the Spanish Acquisition. Txakoli cries out for salty fishy food and a traditional Pintxos Gilda is the perfect complement. I made my own version with marinated red pepper, olives and anchovies. I can’t wait to (eventually) taste the Basque duo in situ.
Canned crab sandwiches + Madame Coco Blanc de Blancs, Aude Valley, France, A$22
I love crabs but they’re fiddly to eat. A simple alternative is canned crab meat, which its perfect for sandwiches with dill mayonnaise on white bread – no crusts please. A crisp, fine bubbly makes the perfect partner and, if a Champagne from the Côte des Blancs is beyond the budget, try this classy but affordable incarnation from the Aude Valley. It’s a delectable alternative.