Not only are canned sardines economical, they are packed with nutrients, earning this pantry item a well-deserved regular spot on your weekly shopping list.
1. Spicy spaghetti
Fry chopped tomatoes in a little oil spray with minced garlic and dried or finely chopped fresh chilli. Mash a drained 125g can sardines (in spring water) then stir into the tomato mixture. Toss with cooked wholemeal spaghetti and greens such as baby spinach and chopped fresh parsley.
2. Autumn salad
Mix liquid honey with wholegrain mustard. Cut cooked beetroot in wedges then place them on a baking sheet with a drained 125g can sardines (in spring water). Brush with this honey glaze then grill until slightly caramelised. Serve with salad greens tossed in balsamic vinegar and scattered with feta cheese.
3. Smoky fish pâté
Blend a drained 125g can sardines (in spring water) with 100g reduced-fat cream cheese, 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika and a squeeze of lemon juice. Season with freshly ground black pepper then spread over wholegrain toast and scatter with watercress.
4. Indian-spiced sandwich
Heat a spray of oil in a frying pan with 1/2 teaspoon turmeric, 1 teaspoon garam masala and 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds. Add a drained 125g can sardines (in spring water) and fry for 3-4 minutes, turning once (keep whole). Serve on warmed naan bread drizzled with low-fat plain yoghurt mixed with chopped fresh mint.
5. Mediterranean couscous
Cook 1/2 cup couscous following packet directions. Fluff with a fork then stir in a large pinch each of ground cumin, cinnamon and coriander. Add a drained 420g can no-added-salt chickpeas with finely chopped red onion, toasted pine nuts, chopped fresh coriander and chopped cucumber. Season with freshly ground black pepper then stir in a drained 125g can sardines (in spring water).
6. Coconut curry
Fry 1 sliced onion in a spray of oil until softened. Add 1 minced garlic clove, 1-2 tablespoons medium- hot curry powder and 1/2 teaspoon chilli powder. Add a little light coconut milk to make a smooth sauce then simmer for 5 minutes. Add a drained 125g can sardines (in spring water) and 1 cup chopped tomatoes and simmer to heat through. Serve with brown rice.
Mix a drained 125g can sardines (in spring water) with 400g mashed potatoes. Stir in some corn kernels and finely chopped spring onions then shape mixture into 8 fishcakes. Lightly coat in polenta then place cakes on a baking tray and spray with a little oil. Bake at 180°C for 20 minutes. Serve with steamed vegetables and reduced-fat mayonnaise mixed with lemon zest.
8. Herby sardines on toast
Toast wholegrain bread on one side under the grill. Spread untoasted sides with a little pesto then top with sliced tomato and a drained 125g can sardines (in spring water). Return to grill to heat. Serve scattered with fresh basil.
9. Italian-style supper
Quickly stir-fry 1 coarsely grated courgette in a little oil spray. Add 1/2 small jar drained artichoke antipasto and heat through. Toss with 200g cooked rigatoni pasta then stir through a drained 125g can sardines (in spring water). Serve scattered with grated fresh parmesan cheese and chopped fresh parsley.
10. Hearty stew
Heat 1 tablespoon sunflower oil in a large frying pan then fry chopped onion, red capsicum, green capsicum and a sliced celery stalk for 5 minutes to soften. Add 1 cup brown rice, 2 teaspoons paprika, a 400g can chopped no-added-salt tomatoes and 500ml liquid no-added-salt chicken stock. Bring to the boil then simmer for 10-15 minutes until rice is cooked. Stir in 2 x drained 125g cans sardines (in spring water) with 100g baby spinach. Season with freshly ground black pepper then serve.
Be aware that most canned sardines have added salt and can be high in sodium. Choose no-added-salt or lower-sodium varieties.