Many people do not like the taste of sardines, they find them too fishy. Being an oily fish they are strong flavoured, and like other oily fish (for example salmon and mackerel) they are rich in omega-3s – this could provide enough incentive to begin eating them and learning to enjoy them. Because of their oil content the taste becomes even fisher if they are left so they need to be eaten fresh. When they are very fresh I like to eat them raw marinaded in lemon juice and olive oil.
Sardines are a resilient species and with favourable conditions they reproduce successfully and in large numbers; they are therefore sustainable.
One of the ways that I really enjoy to eat oily fish is by grilling on a griddle or char-grilling in a BBQ. Presented with a simple dressing that contains lemon juice (for example the Sicilian Salmoriglio (salt, oregano, lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil) they taste less fishy.
I also like to present them with Zogghiu (a Sicilian pesto-type accompaniment strongly flavoured with mint). I say ‘pesto-type’ because I mostly use a food processor and do not pound the ingredients with a mortar and pestle (pesto = from pestare = to pound using a mortar and pestle) .
Sardines are small fish with soft flesh and therefore require gentle handling and short cooking times. I only turn them once when they are being cooked, whether I am barabecuing, grilling or pan-frying. If I am baking them (as in Beccafico- stuffed with Sicilan/ Arab flavours ) or cooking them in liquid I do not turn them at all.
Sardinia – sardines…. is there a connection? Maybe… sardines were once very plentiful around the island of Sardinia and it is thought that their name is likely to have originated from ancient times.
Cooking on a BBQ is simple. This time I cooked them on a griddle lined with foil.
To clean sardines:
Remove the scales by scraping with your fingers against the grain (towards the head) and back again – the flesh is too delicate to use a knife.
Use pointy scissors or a sharp pointy knife to cut the fish open along the belly from tail to head.
Gently push the innards out of the body.
Gently rinse the fish inside and out under the tap with gentle- running water, being careful not to break the skin
sardines, left whole, scaled and gutted
a sprinkling of salt and some extra virgin olive oil and to brush over the sardines
Wash the sardines and pat dry – be gentle.
Sprinkle with a little salt, brush them with a little olive oil and grill quickly over high heat in a griddle plate.
Cook them 3–4 minutes on either side – turn only once very carefully. The skin will be slightly charred- this will also help to mask the oily taste.
I presented them with this salad: