7 comfort food classics that use tinned tomatoes

7 comfort food classics made using tinned tomatoes

by Great British Chefs 22 November 2019

Tinned tomatoes are an essential store cupboard item – they lend richness and depth to so many delicious dishes. We’ve rounded up seven of our favourite comfort food recipes that use tinned tomatoes to their maximum potential.

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Great British Chefs is a team of passionate food lovers dedicated to bringing you the latest food stories, news and reviews as well as access to some of Britain’s greatest chefs. Our posts cover everything we are excited about from the latest openings and hottest food trends to brilliant new producers and exclusive chef interviews.

Tomatoes are a magical ingredient in so many ways. When they come fresh off the vine they’re vibrant – a perfect blend of sweetness and acidity that pings off the palate – but when they’re preserved in tins, they become something completely different. Good tinned tomatoes still bring that sweetness and acidity to dishes, but they also bring amazing richness and depth of flavour. They’re experts at bringing out the best in other flavours around them; catalysts for the simple, delicious one-pot dishes that we all trot out in the winter when it’s cold and wet and we just can’t be bothered spending hours at the stove.

We often consider all tins of tomatoes to be roughly the same, but there are stark differences in quality to be found. Expensive doesn't necessarily mean good – it's worth tasting different tins to see which one you like. The ripeness of the tomatoes and the speed at which they are picked and then sealed in tins makes a huge difference to the final product.

A large chunk of our favourite comfort food recipes use tinned tomatoes in some form, often as the base of a braise that evolves over time to be more than the sum of its parts. We’ve narrowed our favourites down to just seven essential recipes – the heroes that we couldn’t manage without over the course of the year. Check them out below!

Tuscan-style sausage ragù

Luke Holder’s sausage ragu is a bona fide winter star. It has everything you could want from a comforting one-pot – chorizo brings a piquant, spicy note whilst chickpeas provide ballast alongside rich, meaty Italian sausages. The use of good quality tinned tomatoes is crucial – as they cook, they bring all the flavours together. Eat with a warm slice of focaccia and a nice glass of Italian red for maximum enjoyment.

Pulled lamb, preserved lemon, aubergine and tomato hotpot

Lancashire hotpot is highly underrated in our eyes – there are few things we’d rather come home to after a long day at work. Emily Watkins’ version introduces a few different ideas, but the combination of flavours is exceptional. Braising her lamb shoulder in chicken stock gives her beautiful, tender meat but also a delicious sauce; she combines both with tinned tomatoes, fried aubergine and preserved lemon to create her filling. Top things off with thin slices of buttery potato and finish in the oven for a wonderful wintery treat.

Chicken tagine

North Africa does comfort food extremely well – the likes of harira, shakshuka and couscous are all wonderful for the soul, but tagine is the dish we all seem to gravitate towards. The sweet, salty, sour contrast of meat, tomato, chickpea and dried fruit is a real rollercoaster for the senses – our chicken thigh version is remarkably easy, but still delivers on the flavour front. Once your chicken is browned, add the rest of your ingredients to the tagine (or saucepan) and let everything come together. Delicious.

Lamb, fennel and anchovy meatballs

Spaghetti and meatballs is an Italian-American classic that has its roots in old Neapolitan cooking. Fennel is a classic addition to meatballs and sausages in Italy, but using anchovies alongside really helps to pump up the rich, meaty flavour. Douse the meatballs in a tomato sauce of your choice (Helen uses white wine and chicken stock for extra depth of flavour) and you have an easy dinner ready in just forty-five minutes. You could even prepare the meatballs and tomato sauce ahead of time if you wanted to.

Duck Madras

If we’re looking for a delicious curry recipe, Alfred Prasad is the man we turn to more often than not. As he notes in his guide to classic takeaway curry dishes, Madras is very much a British-Indian invention, rather than an authentic Indian dish. His interpretation uses spices associated with Madras – cardamom, clove, cassia, star anise, coriander and cumin – then uses tinned tomatoes to create a rich base for this delicious duck curry.

Moroccan chicken and chickpea soup

A rich, restorative soup is an essential part of any winter recipe collection. This Moroccan-inspired chicken soup is hearty and substantial – enough to see you through to your next meal – and beautifully balanced. Take care over the sweating of the vegetables at the beginning – that base will give your soup a solid foundation that has a huge effect on the final result.

Shoulder shanks of lamb with braised chorizo and butter beans

Shaun Hill's classy one-pot braised lamb dish looks seriously impressive, but it couldn't be easier to put together. Get out your best casserole pot, sear your lamb shoulder, then remove and pile in all your vegetables, finishing with tinned tomatoes, butter beans and chorizo. A splash of red wine and two hours in the oven are all that's left between you and a delicious dinner.