Support the Portuguese fishermen....Santos Populares,please eat Sardines.Não fazer nada

Sardines are synonymous in the month of June with Santos Populares (popular saints).Normally there would be  festivals  all over the country.These festivities are very animated with people from the local neighbourhoods eating, drinking and celebrating.Streets are filled with smoky braziers and a colourful atmosphere proliferates.Even though all this has been cancelled this year we can still enjoy the food and drink of our favourite events recreated at home.What better way to do this than to throw together some sardines and support our fishermens´ livelihoods at the same time.The good news that after years of appeals, the sardine fishermen have had their quotas finally increased.
On the downside this has been spoilt by the realities of the pandemic. Will there be enough people now to eat all this fish? The irony is that the increase comes – after years of pressure against ‘advice from experts’ to stop fishing sardines at all  – just as the prospect of ‘tourists’, which represent a huge slice of the market, has plummeted. But with the cancellation of traditional gastronomic festivals – where sardines are usually consumed in vast quantities – no one can be sure of what kind of price this year’s sardines will command. Everything is pointing to a kilo being well down on last year’s prices.The appeal this summer is “please eat sardines, and/ or any other Portuguese fish that you find in the markets”. Fishermen’s livelihoods depend on it.One glimmer of light in the context of the pandemic is that any sardines not sold in the markets will be hopefully absorbed by the canning industry,keeping the wonderful Portuguese tradition alive.
 Grilled fresh sardines. One of life’s simple, delectable pleasures. I actually never tasted grilled sardines until I emigrated to Portugal. My only tangible reference was memories of canned sardines and pilchards in tomato sauce that we had as children.After living in Portugal and looking at the expressions on Portuguese faces all around me as they ate sardine after sardine told me something, and I was finally convinced to try one. Wow…They were the freshest, tastiest, crunchiest little fish I had ever tasted. They served them simply dressed with a sprinkle of salt and pepper, grilled and served with a bowl of lemons alongside. The sardines were mouthwateringly plump and juicy, tasting simply of the sea. I now linger for hours over a carafe of crisp white wine, happily munching plates of sardines and chatting with friends until the sun leaves long shadows on the horizon. Não fazer nada.  
The other alternative on warm summerish days here,is to head down to the local tasca and eat fresh sardines on the grill. They are now in season and you can serve them at home alongside a classic Sicilian sauce with an odd name – salmoriglio. The name is derived from a word that means salty or briny and is a quick whirl of lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, parsley and oregano. Its tangy bite complements the freshest of fish and is a sauce I return to time and time again to complement fish, chicken and sometimes vegetables.So I got grilling and turned the humble sardine into a mouth watering masterpiece.

           Recipes and Food Styling: Linda Tubby. Photography and Prop Styling: Angela Dukes.

Sardines salmoriglio
This is a wonderfully traditional recipe that I have borrowed from a back issue Food and Travel magazine.Salmoriglio is a Sicilian sauce that a lot of people have never heard of. The name is derived from salamoia, which means salty (brine). Made with lemon juice, water and olive oil, this quick sauce is perfect to baste grilled fish with or to use at the table as a condiment for grilled meats.
    Finely grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
    3tbsp extra virgin olive oil
    15g oregano, leaves removed and chopped
    15g flat-leaf parsley, leaves removed and chopped
    2 garlic cloves, crushed to a paste with sea salt
    8 green olives, stoned and chopped

      For the sardine stuffing

        12 sardines, prepared
        9tbsp soft breadcrumbs
        6tbsp parmesan, freshly grated
        2tbsp small capers, roughly chopped
        15g oregano, leaves removed and chopped
        15g flat-leaf parsley, leaves removed and chopped
        Finely grated zest of 2 lemons and the juice of 1
        1tsp pul biber pepper flakes

          To Prepare Sardines:
          In cold water, rub off any stray scales from the fish (they tend to shed scales when they are caught so there shouldn’t be many left). Using a pair of scissors, cut off the head and all the fins (except the tail) and snip open the belly as far as possible to the tail end. Clean out the guts with kitchen paper, rinse the fish then pat dry. Sit the fish on a board with the belly downwards and press firmly along the backbone with the heel of your thumb from the opposite end to the tail. Keep pressing until you feel the bone loosening. Turn the fish over and you will see all the side bones have also come away with the backbone. Gently ease it out towards the tail end without breaking the bone or the flesh. When you reach the tail, snip it out with scissors, leaving the tail in place. Neaten the belly up with the scissors and place on a plate until ready to cook.
          To make the salmoriglio, place all the ingredients in a small bowl, mix in 1 teaspoon of sea salt and set to one side.
          Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/ Gas 6. Oil an oven tray. Mix all the stuffing ingredients with a pinch of sea salt. Lay the sardines out skin-side down and divide the stuffing between them. Roll up towards the tail and secure with a cocktail stick so the tail sits upright. Cook in the oven for 4 minutes then let them rest for 5 minutes. Serve hot or cold with the salmoriglio.


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