Can hacks: What to cook with that tin of beans in the pantry

Michael Rantissi's chickpea, nut and dried fruit salad.
Michael Rantissi's chickpea, nut and dried fruit salad. Photo: Supplied

All your pantry boasts is a can of beans? Get cheffy with it. Grab a can-opener, a spoonful of chutzpah and make it the star.

Pasta Fazool

Mitch Orr, ACME, Sydney

Render some pancetta down in its own fat until it's golden brown and crispy. Drain off most of the fat. Add a finely chopped onion and garlic clove, and saute until lightly golden. Add a tin of drained cannellini beans and fry them off. Remove ¼ of the beans. Add a tin of tomatoes and reduce by half. Blitz the tomato and bean mix into a nice silky puree, using water or chicken stock to adjust the consistency. 

Return the rest of the beans to the pan. Break up some dried spaghetti and cook in plenty of salted boiling water. Strain and add the bean sauce. It should be the consistency of a nice creamy soup. Finish with some of the pancetta fat, fresh oregano, parmesan, chopped shio konbu and a good crack of black pepper. 

Headshots For what to do with a can of beans story by Elizabeth Clarke Hanegi sour from Bar Lafayette, Perth (ie, aquafaba whisky sour) Chickpea, nut and dried fruit salad from Michael Rantissi - Kepos Street Kitchen and Kepos & Co, Sydney Lentils with chilli oil, bacon and shallots from Melissa Leong - food writer and cookbook author Melissa Leong Michael Rantissi - Kepos Street Kitchen and Kepos & Co, Sydney Monty Koludrovic - Icebergs Dining Room & Bar, Sydney

Kepos Street Kitchen's Michael Rantissi. Photo: Supplied

Chickpea, nut and dried fruit salad

Michael Rantissi, Kepos Street Kitchen and Kepos & Co, Sydney

Combine a can of drained and crushed chickpeas, 100 grams each of chopped dates, dried cranberries, toasted chopped hazelnuts and whole almonds with skin on (toasted and chopped).  Add one bunch each of roughly chopped chervil, and mint and two coarsely grated small carrots. 

For the dressing, whisk together one tablespoon of cumin seeds (lightly toasted and crushed), zest and juice of a lemon, one tablespoon honey and ½ cup extra virgin olive oil.  Combine dressing with the chickpea mixture, season with salt and transfer the salad to a serving dish. Serves four.


Before you ditch that can of chickpea brine, save it for the slinkier end of the day, in this bean-happy take on the classic whiskey sour: How to make an aquafaba whisky sour using chickpea brine.

Lentils with chilli oil, bacon and shallots from Melissa Leong.

Add coriander if you're feeling fancy. Photo: Supplied

Lentils with chilli oil, bacon and shallots

Melissa Leong, food writer and cookbook author

In a saucepan on medium heat, fry off one rasher of pancetta or middle bacon (rind removed), ½ a finely diced brown onion and 1 finely diced clove of garlic in a tablespoon of olive oil for 2-3 minutes until soft. Add a tin of rinsed lentils and 1 cup of chicken stock and simmer for 5-10 minutes until most of the stock has evaporated. Season to taste and set aside. Spread two tablespoons of Greek yoghurt onto a serving dish and spoon the lentils on top. Dress with chilli oil and fried shallots, and a few coriander leaves if you're feeling fancy.

Breakfast beans

Kim Douglas, Two Chaps, Sydney

This is a killer after-work snack or delicious breakfast (if you get out of bed long enough before work to make it).

Pre-heat the grill to 220C. Put on a pot of water to simmer and add a splash of white vinegar. Slowly heat up some extra virgin olive oil in a large pan and add a finely diced red chilli and clove of crushed garlic. Saute for one minute, then add a small bunch of chopped cavolo nero. Open a can of cannellini beans, drain lightly and add salt, cracked black pepper and lemon juice to the pan. Crush the beans slightly as you saute.

Toast some sourdough bread under the hot grill, turning until it's golden brown on all sides. Take it out and rub one side with a clove of garlic. Poach an egg for 2½ minutes and top your garlicky bruschetta with the cavolo-cannellini bean mix. Take egg out with a slotted spoon, blot off the excess water and place on top of your bruschetta. Drizzle a little more extra virgin olive oil over the egg, season with salt and pepper and get into it.

Monty Koludrovic - Icebergs Dining Room & Bar, Sydney

Monty Koludrovic from Icebergs. Photo: Supplied

Spicy roasted chickpeas, sausage, radicchio and herbs

Monty Koludrovic, Icebergs Dining Room & Bar, Sydney

This dish is great as a shared entree or sits pretty on a buffet. You can replace the sausage with Cantabrian anchovies or cannellini beans, or change the radicchio for Cantonese broccoli. It's fun for days.

Preheat oven to 180C. Drain a can of chickpeas, rinse and add to a casserole dish. Put on high heat and add a generous few glugs of good Australian extra virgin olive oil.

Take four spicy coarse pork sausages, empty the meat from the casings and break into chunks. Toss well and add one teaspoon ras el hanout, minced red chilli and crushed clove of garlic. Roast for 10 minutes. Toss well and add one washed head of raddichio leaves and sprinkle with two tablespoons red wine vinegar. Cook for five more minutes, check in case you need an extra glug of olive oil to keep it juicy. Pull from the oven and transfer to a plate and top with fresh ½ bunch each of fresh washed parsley and basil and ½ sprig of mint leaves.

Crispy fried barramundi with lentils and vinegar

Alastair McLeod, Al'FreshCo, Brisbane         

A nod to classic British fish and chips with salt and vinegar, but also tastes great with chicken, prawns or with wilted greens and a scoop of pesto.

For the lentils, drain a tin of lentils well. Place into a small pot with 400 millilitres chicken stock and bring to a simmer. Add 1½ tablespoons each of finely diced onion, carrot, leek, celery, and potato, and cook for eight minutes. Add 90 millilitres sherry vinegar and whisk in 100 grams of chilled diced unsalted butter. Season with sea salt and freshly milled pepper, and finely chopped flat leaf parsley to finish.

For the barramundi, combine 40 grams flour, two teaspoons baking powder, ½ teaspoon each of cayenne pepper, dried thyme, white pepper, garlic powder, sea salt, ground cumin, ground coriander with four tablespoons nigella seeds and mix well. Set aside. Whisk 180 millilitres cream and three egg whites until well combined.

Dredge four 150-gram barramundi fillets in the spiced flour, shake off excess flour then coat in cream mixture. Shake off excess cream then dredge again in flour. Shake off excess once again. Deep fry at 180C for 4-5 minutes until crispy and golden. Drain on absorbent paper, seasoning lightly. To serve, spoon lentils into bowl plates and arrange crispy barramundi on top. 

Green lentil falafel

Bowdy Tolhopf, SMAK Food House, Melbourne

You can make so many easy mid-week meals with a can of lentils (preferably green if you can find them).

For really good green lentil falafel, combine any herbs you wish with some jalapeno and blitz together.

Season with lemon juice to taste and sprinkle with a small amount of gluten-free flour. 

Roll into balls and bake at 180C for 20 minutes. Done – quick, easy and delicious.