If you’ve been following Stonesoup for a while or if you’ve read my print book 5 Ingredients 10 Minutes, you’ve probably noticed that I use a lot of canned legumes in my cooking.
What can I say…
I’m a huge fan of lentils, beans and especially chickpeas. And while I often used dried legumes and cook them from scratch, I’m equally as likely to turn to the super convenient canned option.
I’ve noticed in the last few weeks, with a newborn in the house, that as the amount of time I have available to spend in the kitchen has dramatically decreased, the number of times I’ve been turning to canned legumes for quick, nutritious meals has increased.
The thing I often get asked about canned foods is ‘are they safe to eat?’ And the biggest concern tends to be around the presence of BPA.
What is BPA?
The short answer is that BPA or ‘Bisphenol A’ is a chemical that has been used to make plastics since the 1950s. If you’re into heavy organic chemistry, it’s all over here on Wikipedia.
Should I be concerned about it?
To my mind, yes. It’s not worth the risk. Especially if you’re an infant or are pregnant or breast feeding.
It’s known that BPA can ‘mimic’ the action of the hormone estrogen in our bodies, and has been linked with obesity and problems with brain development.
My policy is that the less plastic comes in contact with my food, especially when it’s heated, the better.
How do I make sure my canned foods don’t contain BPA?
There are 2 options here.
1. Look for cans that claim ‘BPA Free’ on the label.
In my local supermarket there aren’t any cans that make this claim (yet). So I rely on option 2 below.
2. Buy cans that don’t contain white plastic lining.
Canning is an old and very effective method of preserving food. The thing is, the original cans didn’t contain any plastic linings and really you don’t need them. Even for acidic food like tomatoes, plain cans are fine. And the best thing about using cans without any plastic lining is that you can be sure there isn’t any BPA or any other plastic nasties that we don’t really know much about.
The only downside to this method is that the only way to tell if the can contains BPA is to buy one and open it. So it does take a little experimentation. If you’re in Australia, I’ve done the hard work for you. But if you’re elsewhere in the world, you’ll have to do this yourself (sorry!).
So for the Aussies, I’ve been buying the Macro brand of canned chickpeas, cannellini beans and lentils, which are organic and don’t contain plastic lining.
For canned tomatoes, I buy the Annalisa brand – the tricky thing here is that some cans contain plastic lining and some don’t. How do you tell? I’ve found that the cans with the date code on the bottom of the can in a single line are plastic lining free. Whereas the cans with the date code written over 2 lines contain plastic lining.
Chilli Con ‘Tuna’
The idea for this recipe came from one of my Stonesoup Virtual Cookery School students. It’s funny I would never have thought to replace the beef in chilli con carne with fish. But canned tuna works really well here.
This is a great ‘pantry’ recipe to have in your repertoire. Although it does benefit greatly from some fresh herbs and a little sour cream, from both a taste and appearance perspective, it’s delicious (if not quite so pretty) on its own.
Enough for 3-4
2 large onions, peeled & chopped
400g (14oz) can tuna in spring water, not drained
2 cans tomatoes (400g / 14oz each)
2 cans beans (400g / 14oz each), drained
1-2 teaspoons dried chilli flakes
1. Heat a good glug of olive oil in a large pan. Add onion and cook over a medium heat until soft. About 10 minutes.
2. Add tuna and canning liquid, tomatoes, drained beans and chilli.
3. Cover and simmer for about 20 minutes or until everything is hot.
4. Taste and season with salt and pepper and more chilli, if needed.
prettier & tastier – serve with a generous dollop of sour cream and a few handfuls fresh coriander (cilantro) or flat leaf parsley leaves.
paleo – replace beans with a head of cauliflower, finely chopped into little trees. Make sure you simmer until the cauli is tender.
carnivore – replace tuna with 450g (1lb) ground or minced beef. Brown beef in the pan with the onion before adding the remaining ingredients and continuing from step 3.
vegetarian / vegan – replace tuna with 2 cans drained lentils or 450g (1lb) cooked lentils (boil like pasta until tender).
budget – use and extra can of beans and half as much tuna.
different beans – red kidney beans are traditional in chilli but feel free to use chickpeas or white beans such as cannellini or butter beans instead. Black beans will also work.
different chilli – if you can’t find chilli flakes, feel free to use any other fresh or dried chillies.
Mastering the Art of Cooking in a Budget…
On a completely unrelated topic, I recently donated to the profits from the last 12 months of my ‘Mastering the Art of Cooking on a Budget’ class at the Stonesoup Virtual Cookery School (SVCS) to two different charities: Oz Harvest and Feeding America.
Which reminded me to let you know…
The doors to the rest of the SVCS classes are closed at the moment but the budget class is still open to new students.
So if you’re keen to learn how to cook healthy, delicious meals while sticking to your budget, I recommend checking out the class.
It’s ‘pay what you can afford‘ so you can access the class for as little as $1.
And as I mentioned earlier, the profits are donated to charity. A chance for Stonesoup to help others.
For more details go to:
ps. I can’t guarantee I’ll be able to keep offering the class as a ‘pay what you can afford’ so signup today to make sure you don’t miss out!