Salt grilled sardines. Portugal´s Summer dish

Long after the credit card holiday bills have been paid off, and the suntan has faded, you can relive the memories of meals eaten in Algarvian beachside bars and tascas.These sardines will take you right back to those smoky al fresco barbecue  memories of a summer holiday in the Algarve.And to think some people force themselves to eat oil-rich sardines and mackerel purely for their health.

If Bacalhau is the king of Portuguese gastronomy then the sardine is its queen.During the month of June it reigns supreme over the Popular Saint Festivals,(festas populares) whether it is celebrating St.Anthony, St. John or St. Peter. Throughout summer the sardine season heralds the smell of fresh sardines being grilled on charcoal in the streets of Portugal. 
Even though sardines are served in many other countries, such as Spain, France, Brazil or Morocco, there is no other place like Portugal to eat sardines. Portugal even has its own special way to eat grilled sardines, a way that does not require plates, knives or forks.Eating a sardine isn´t rocket science.If you feel puzzled by the blue-silver fellow that arrives with head and tail on your plate, here’s some help: You’ll need to know some particular things about this most popular fish if you are going to get the best from it.If you are willing to taste a sardine like a true Portuguese,why not do what they do.Put one on a slice of bread and eat it with your fingers while the fat of the fish drips into the bread.To add extra flavour to a grilled sardine on a slice of bread  drizzle it with a dash of olive oil. The taste truly compensates for greasy fingers!You´ll only regret it if you don´t.Use a slice of good wodgy bread as a “bed” to place your sardine on. Carefully remove the skin – if they are fresh and within the season it will come off really easily.
The bread soaked with juices and salt from the sardines works as a side dish and you may reuse it for several sardines and change it from time to time, eating it once it is well soaked with the juices.

Salt grilled sardines

2 sweet red peppers
2 tbsp olive oil
8 large or 12 medium sardines,gutted, cleaned and scaled
1 dessert spoon Flor de sal
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
pinch of cayenne pepper
a little extra virgin olive oil
1 lemon quartered

Coat the sweet peppers with some of the olive oil and grill, turning occasionally, until scorched and blistered all over.Peel off the skin and cut the peppers into long strips, discarding the core and seeds.An alternative method if you want to get ahead and do it the day before is to roast the peppers in the oven till they are blistered and charred.
Brush the sardines and the grill with oil to help prevent them sticking.Roll the sardines in the sea salt,pepper and cayenne,set aside for at least 30 minutes.
Grill or barbecue lightly on one side,then turn the sardines while they are still firm enough to be moved without breaking up. Grill or barbecue on the other side until the until the skin is scorched and bubbling.
Arrange the grilled sardines and peppers on serving plates.Add a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and serve with a wedge of lemon and salad on the side.


  1. Gorgeous! Although I have to say that summer over here is a distant memory . . . I think I am turning into a duck!


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