Grilled fresh sardines are as popular in Portugal as hot dogs and hamburgers are in North America.
The characteristic smell of grilled sardines permeates everywhere, during the summer months, when literally tonnes of them are consumed. Natives and tourist alike devour them by the dozen from street vendors, in local seaside tascas, restaurants and in the backyards and terraces of private homes. Apart from the ubiquitous salt cod, fresh sardines are, of course one of Portugal´s national dishes, especially char-grilled.
If your experience of sardines is limited to the canned variety, here´s your wake up call.
The season to eat sardines is between May and October, when the fish fatten for spawning
Portuguese grilled sardines
the salting that´s done here gives the sardines extra flavour, akin to cured fish.
Prep time: 30-60 minutes for salting the sardines
Serves 4 people
24 sardines, fresh , cleaned, heads and tails left on 1 cup sea salt 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil lemon wedges for serving
Rinse the sardines under cold running water, then drain them and blot dry with paper towel. Sprinkle one third of the salt on the bottom of a ceramic dish. Arrange half the sardines on top and sprinkle with half the remaining salt. add another layer of sardines and sprinkle the remaining salt all over. Cover and cure in the salt in the refrigerator for 30 to 60 minutes.
When ready to cook, rinse the salt off the sardines and dry off with paper towel. brush the sardines with the oil.If you are worried about the fish sticking, use afish grilling basket; otherwise oil the grate and arrange the fish directly on it. Grill the sardines until their skins are lightly charred and the flesh is cooked to flakiness. 5 minutes per side max.serve immediately with lemon wedges and a fresh salad
Fresh cured sardines
This makes a great tapas that can be prepared in advance
Serves 12 people
500g fresh sardine fillets
100ml white wine vinegar
6-8 fresh bay leaves
4 cloves garlic peeled and thinly sliced
2 taespoons sea salt
4-5 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
cracked black pepper
Rinse and drain the sardine fillets and cut into strips. Place on a shallow platter. mix together the vinegar, bay leaves, garlic and salt and pour over the sardines. Let stand, for 3-4 hours in acool place or refrigerator. Drain off the vinegar mixture, pour on the olive oil, mix through and and add pepper to taste. Serve garnished with fresh chopped parsley or coriander and fresh artesanal crusty bread.
Filetes de sardinha panados
( breaded sardine fillets)
This is a staple of the portuguese table and one of my all time favourites
serve it as a supper dish or as part of a tapas platter
Serves 4 people
8 Sardine fillets
4 soup soons bread crumbs
1 soupspoon chopped flat leaf parsley
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 egg, beaten
Season the sardine fillets with sea salt
garlic and a little lemon juice. drag the sardine fillets through some flour, and then through the beaten egg, and finally coat
them with a mixture of the breadcrumbs, parsley and oregano.
Heat a little olive oil in a deep frying pan and fry the fillets until they are golden. lift from the pan and dry on kitchen paper.
Serve hot or cold
Serve with thin slices of home made bread and a salad of lettuce, tomato, roasted pepprs and cucumber
Garnish with fresh coriander and oregano
Sardines and chickpea salad, escalivada
Escalivada, the mixture used to stuff the sardines,is a typical preparation of catalan cuisine.
Escalivar means to cook in hot ashes. Typically the vegetables in an escalivada are grilled, and the dish is served with grilled meats or fish. Mountain shepherds were adept at packing their rucksacks with some cheese and wine and building a hardwood fire near their sheep's pasture where they could grill a medley of vegetables. The sardines are marinated in orange juice and served on a salad of chickpeas, croutons and bacon
30 minutes prep time plus 6 hours marinating
18 small sardines rinsed and cleaned mint leaves to garnish
FOR THE MARINADE
4 oranges juiced
30 ml sherry vinegar sea salt
FOR THE STUFFING
1 red pepper 1 onion, peeled 1 aubergine 2 tablespoons olive oil
FOR THE SALAD
25g bacon chopped in cubes
125 g chicpeas, cooked or tinned
2 spring onions, chopped
FOR THE VINAIGRETTE
100ml extra virgin olive oil
1 orange, juiced
15 ml sherry vinegar
salt and pepper
Mix together the orange juice, sherry vinegar and salt for the marinade
Toss the sardines with the marinade in a large dish and leave in the refrigerator overnight.
Preheat the oven to 190c / gas 5
Toss the red pepper, onion and aubergine in the olive oil in a roasting tin.
Roast for 30 minutes until tender
Cut the roasted red pepper, onion and aubergine into short thin strips and toss together.
Fry the bacon in a small heavy based frying pan.
In abowl mix together the fried bacon, croutons spring onions and chick peas
make the vinaigrette by whisking together the olive oil, orange juice and sherry vinegar.
Season with salt and pepper
Toss the chick pea mixture with the vinaigrette
Drain the marinated sardines. Stuff each sardine with the roasted vegetables.
To serve. - Spoon the chick pea salad onto a serving plate.
Top with the stuffed sardines, garnish with the mint leaves.