Product review and recipes: John West Tuna & Beans

Sponsored by Nuffnang

The nice people at Nuffnang invited me to take part in a promotional campaign for John West Tuna & Beans. They sent me a free sample of the product and laid down the challenge: to make a meal that is healthy and easy using the Tuna & Beans. :-D I’ll get to that shortly! (and read on for details of how you can take part in the challenge with a free sample – Australian readers only)

According to John West, Tuna & Beans is packed with protein, fibre and omega-3 and made with all natural ingredients, so it’s very good for you. But most importantly (let’s face it!), how does it taste?

First impressions and initial taste test

John West Tuna & Beans - the box

The Tuna & Beans sample we received was the “Capsicum, Sweet Corn, Red Kidney Beans and Chilli” flavor. There are three flavours of Tuna & Beans: Three Beans; Roasted Capsicum & Three Beans; and Capsicum, Sweet Corn, Red Kidney Beans and Chilli.

John West Tuna & Beans - unpacked

Inside this cardboard box is a 185g tin of tuna & beans and a mini spork, so it truly is “ready to eat”, as proudly proclaimed on the box.

John West Tuna & Beans - the green can of mystery

I love ring-pull lids on tins. I think all tinned goods should have them. I hate having to muck around looking for the tin opener, and when opening tuna products, juice always leaks out and dribbles onto the counter through the motion of the tin-opening. With a ring-pull lid, the action is cleaner and faster and minimizes the mess. 185g is a decent-sized serve – a more substantial serving size to the standard 95g tins you get. When you hold the tin in your hand, you can feel its weightiness. I do find that the Tuna Tempters (and other similar tuna products) are too small for me, and even though I eat it with crackers or bread, I’m still hungry afterwards.

I like the inclusion of the spork so the Tuna & Beans are ready to eat anywhere, any time. I’d love more tinned products to come with their own eating utensils (Baked Beans comes to mind – it would be brilliant to just crack open the tin and start eating with a supplied spoon, I love cold beans straight out of a tin). The Tuna & Beans spork is so cute and tiny, but maybe too tiny – I think I really need a more robust, larger utensil when I’ve ready hungry! The spork does hold some of tasty juices, but because it’s so small, you don’t get that much juice (or Tuna & Beans) in a mouthful! But I presume its size is due to packaging size practicalities. You couldn’t have a great big long spork packaged with a reasonably compact tin.

John West Tuna & Beans - the spork

With the lid pulled off, the aroma was quite enticing. I could immediately smell onion and chilli. The aroma reminded me of another John West product, probably my favourite tuna snack, Tuna Tempters Onion and Savoury Sauce

John West Tuna & Beans - lid removed

The Tuna & Beans tasted as just good as it smelled. I liked the different textures of the beans, the corn and the tuna. The capsicum was quite fine and soft, so it didn’t really leave much of an impression on me texture-wise, but it did add to the overall flavour of the product. The tuna was flaked nicely -not too finely, not left too chunky. I thought it was flaked to just the right consistency so the juices and chilli could really soak into it, so it was moist and really flavoursome when you ate it.

I thought there could’ve been more corn and more beans in the actual product – but then I am a BIG corn and bean fan. Jac liked the taste of the Tuna & Beans, though she thought there should’ve been more beans, or no beans at all.

Tuna & Beans meal challenge
The next thing to do was to make a meal that is healthy and easy using the Tuna & Beans. This probably isn’t very original, but I instantly thought of a tuna and pasta salad – I love the combination of tinned tuna, pasta and crunchy vegetables.

Tuna & Beans macaroni salad

Recipe: Tuna & Beans with macaroni salad
125g small macaroni
1 x 185g tin of John West Tuna & Beans – Capsicum, beans, corn and chilli
2 Tbsp chopped green capsicum
1 Tbsp chopped celery
1 Tbsp chopped original dill cucumber pickle
Salt and pepper to taste

Cook the macaroni until al dente, drain well and allow to cool. You could rinse it in cold water; we put ours in the fridge for a few minutes.

Combine the Tuna & Beans, chopped vegetables and pickle in a bowl. Make sure you include all the juice from the tin, as that will form the dressing for the salad.

Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Mix well, and serve.

You need to use other utensils to prepare this dish, but you could certainly pack it into a lunch box and just eat it with the spork!

TFP’s recipe notes:
I wanted to use ingredients we already had in the fridge or pantry. Apart from cooking pasta and chopping up the vegetables, all you have to do is open the tin of Tuna & Beans and mix things together – that’s pretty easy! To keep it healthy and also highlight the flavour of the product, we opted for no additional dressing, using the natural juices from the tin to provide moisture and flavour. I think it was moist and tasty enough!

When we originally made the salad, we didn’t include the pickle. Upon tasting, we thought it needed more acid, and added the sour pickle. You could easily add chopped sweet pickles instead if you prefer a sweeter flavour, or perhaps squeeze some lemon juice over for a more tangy salad.
If you’d like an actual dressing, you could easily do a quick olive oil and lemon juice dressing (the lemon juice would definitely go well with the chilli and the tuna), or even toss the salad through with mayonnaise (not as healthy, of course!).
Next time I make this I will add more corn – I love the pop of the corn kernels as I eat, and the more of that, the better.

Other ingredients that may be worth trying in the salad: sundried or semi-sundried tomatoes (I’d slice them into strips), olives (I don’t like olives, but I think they’d go well), rice… whatever’s in the fridge! But make sure the components are all chopped to a similar size. If healthiness wasn’t the main consideration, I’d even like to add crispy bacon pieces! You could also make a rice salad instead of a pasta salad.

The Tuna & Beans proved quite inspiring, and after sampling our salad creation, we kept on cooking!
This next recipe may not be quite so healthy, but it is easy and definitely delicious!

Bonus Recipe: Tuna & Beans Nacho Bites
John West Tuna & Beans – Capsicum, beans, corn and chilli
Salted corn chips
Grated cheese (we used mozzarella for maximum chewiness)
Nacho sauce base (recipe to follow)

To garnish:
Light sour cream
Chopped spring onion

Arrange corn chips on a tray. Try to select ones that have enough flat area to hold the topping.

Mix Tuna & Beans with nacho sauce base (half and half) to create the Nacho Bites topping

Place approximately 1 tsp of Nacho Bites topping topping towards the centre of each corn chip. Try to leave the corners free of toppings so people will be able to grab them using the corners. Top with cheese.

Tuna & Beans Nacho Bites

Place the tray of corn chips under grill long enough to warm up the chips/topping and melt the cheese. The time will vary, depending on your grill; we set our grill to a low heat setting and it took about 3 minutes. Keep an eye on it, and be ready to smell the wonderful aroma of toasted corn chips and melted cheese.

When cheese is sufficiently melted, remove tray from grill and arrange corn chips on serving dish, taking care not to break the chips or lose topping as you move them. Top with dollops of sour cream and sprinkle spring onion over the top. Serve immediately.

Nacho sauce base
400ml Italian tomato puree
1 packet taco seasoning mix e.g. Old El Paso brand
1/2 cup chopped green capsicum
1/2 cup chopped red capsicum
1 medium brown onion chopped
(capsicums and onion all chopped to roughly 1cm squares)

Heat 1 dessertspoon of canola oil in frypan (or wok, which is what we use!).
Add onion and fry for a few minutes then add capsicum. Fry for another few minutes. Stir taco seasoning into the vegetables, cook for another 2 minutes. Add the tomato puree and cook for a further 5 minutes.

This recipe makes a lot of sauce – we used whatever we needed at the time and then froze the rest.

Tuna & Beans Nacho Bites

Tuna & Beans Nacho Bites

Tuna & Beans Nacho Bite

TFP’s Recipe notes
We made a few variations of this (you may have noticed on the tray of corn chips pictured above). The others were:
Corn chip, cheese and Tuna & Beans (straight out of the tin, no nacho topping)
Corn chip and Tuna & Beans (straight out of the tin, no nacho topping, no cheese)
All were tasty, and obviously a cheeseless, sour cream-less corn chip would be the healthiest option.
I loved how these tasted and will definitely make them again, next time for guests!

After we demolished the Nacho Bites, we were still hungry, so Jac made Tuna & Beans nachos! To make these, we simply mixed some of the nacho sauce base with a tin of John West Tuna & Beans. We topped corn chips with Tuna & Beans nacho sauce base and cheese, then placed the nachos under the grill until the chips and sauce were hot and cheese was melted. We topped the nachos with a big blob of sour cream and sprinkled chopped spring onion on top, then dug in. Remember – hot cheese burns! :)

Tuna & Beans nachos

All in all, I really enjoyed the Tuna & Beans. Thank you, Nuffnang and John West, for giving Jac and me the chance to try the product. I must admit, I probably wouldn’t have thought to try it, even if I saw it on the supermarket shelf. But now I’ve tried it, I’m sure I’ll buy it again. I’d like to try the other varieties, especially the roasted capsicum and three beans one.

Other Tuna & Beans ideas
We’ve been so busy with the house sale and move. My brain’s been working overtime and bursting with ideas, but I haven’t had time to try them all out. Here are other ideas for finger foods and snacks using Tuna & Beans:

Tuna & Beans on sliced cucumber rounds
As party finger food
Slice a continental cucumber into disc-shaped slices of about ¾ of a centimetre thickness.
Top each slice with a little Tuna & Beans (drain the juice first, or it will be too soggy). Garnish as desired. Serve immediately.

As lunch to take to work
You could eat Tuna & Beans with cucumber rounds for lunch just like you would crackers.
Simply slice half a cucumber into disc-shaped slices and pack into your lunch box.
Or even better, slice the cucumber into slices, but not all the way through the cucumber, so it’s still intact – at lunch time you can just “pull” the slices apart. Crack open your tin of Tuna & Beans and use the spork to top each cucumber slice, like you would crackers!

These next ones are party food ideas, not so much lunch / “ready to eat with spork” ideas:

Tuna & Beans Pinwheel sandwiches
Cut the crusts off bread. Flatten bread a little with a rolling pin. Spread the bread with mayonnaise, then Tuna & Beans. Roll up the bread into a cigar shape. Slice into pinwheels. You could add a little lettuce or spinach leaves if you like, but I’d add the greens after the mayo but before the Tuna & Beans, so the two moist ingredients can help hold the lettuce in.

Mini Tuna & Beans Toasts
Top mini toasts with Tuna & Beans, sprinkle grated cheese over the top. Place under grill to melt cheese. You could even make garlic toasts by spreading garlic butter on the mini toasts before adding the Tuna & Beans.

Take on the John West Tuna & Beans Challenge!
I think you can tell I had a lot of fun trying out this product.
Food bloggers: get a free sample and take the John West Tuna & Beans challenge!
Visit Nuffnang for details! If you do give it a go and write a blog post, come back and leave the post link in the comments here, so the other readers and I can check it out!

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