Sardines are for life not just for the 12th June

The English writer Alan Bennett famously wrote "Life is rather like a tin of sardines, we´re all of us looking for the key". Though perhaps being trapped inside a tin would be more appropriate recently. In a normal scenario Lisbon actually shuts down many streets through-out the the entire month of June to celebrate the Lisbon
Sardine Festival, in honour of its patron saint, Saint Anthony. For the second consecutive year however the city of Lisbon will not celebrate the 12th June,Dia de Santo António due to the pandemic - or at least not in the usual way. The traditional parade  on Avenida da Liberdade in that city and the weddings of Santo António will not take place.

Celebrating this fish for a whole month! I’d call that a signicant nod to its popularity.
In Lisbon they put a sardine on a slice of cornbread for a very tasty reason. No, they don’t make a sandwich out of it. They put the sardine on the cornbread so that it soaks up the flavours and oils while the sardine is  opened to remove its bones. After the fish is eaten, what remains is a tasty piece of bread that’s delicious on its own, and even better with a glass of wine to wash it down. Tinned sardines are really having a moment, which is great because not only are they a delicious, shelf-stable, sustainable source of protein and Omega-3s, and this is exactly why everyone needs sardines in their larder.
So you see the tinned sardines, you buy the tinned sardines. Now what? First, you need to know what you’re getting into. Unlike anchovies (be still my beating heart), sardines have a much meatier texture (not as meaty as tuna, but close) and more intense, (dare I say, fishier) flavour. I like intense things, so that doesn’t bother me. In fact, I like it! But if you find yourself among the seafood-flavour averse, you might not ever love sardines, not even after i have suggested some ideas to you. Sardines are not prepared only on the grill. They are rich in vitamins and other good things - and keep forever in the pantry ( does anyone still have a pantry?!!!! )
Everybody knows the rule: good, fat and tasty sardines, only in the months without an R. And the rest of the year? Well, let me let you in on a little secret: canned sardines are not only a good alternative, they can be the missing ingredient in your diet.

From the start, convenience and durability make canned sardines a perfect weapon in the kitchen, something i took advantage of during the pandemic. The science shows that the nutritional benefits of sardines are not affected by the heat treatment to which they are subjected. It has little impact on the content of vitamins and minerals.
What vitamins are these? They are rich in protein, polyunsaturated fatty acids, namely Omega 3, fat-soluble vitamins such as A, D and B12. They are also rich in iron, magnesium and potassium and the edible spines are rich in calcium. All good things.
Do not go running to grab all the cans of sardines you find in the supermarket. Not all have the same benefits, particularly with regard to salt. It is, therefore, convenient that you always check the nutritional values ​​of the one you want to take home.
It is very easy to combine canned sardines with other ingredients and create tasty dishes. You can choose from simple creations like a bruschetta or pâté, to more elaborate (and healthy) meals like pastas and curries .Just peel open a tin, it is the key to turning a classic puttanesca into a sardinesca

Sardine and savoy cabbage burrito
Serves: two people

- 100g tomato
- 100g pinto beans
- 200g white rice or brown rice
- 2 cans of sardines in tomato sauce
- 120g spring onion
- 4  cabbage leaves,thick stalk removed
- 20g parsley
- Flor de sal black pepper q.s.

Blanch the cabbage leaves in boiling water. Place beans, cooked rice, chopped onion, tomato cut into pieces, sardines into tomatoes and season with pepper. Wrap everything tightly in the cabbage leaves.

Sardine hummus
A modern take on sardine paste
Serves: four people

200g chickpeas
1 can of sardines in tomato
1 large clove garlic
10g spinach
lemon juice
1/4 Tsp ground cumin
1/4 Tsp ground cumin

Blitz all the ingredients together until a paste is obtained.
Serve with vegetable sticks crackers or bread.

Bolinhas de sardinha com molho sriracha-soy
Sardine Fritters with Sriracha-Soy Sauce
Makes 24 cocktail sized balls
To make the sauce
2 tbsp sriracha sauce
2 tbsp soya sauce
2 tbsp fresh lime juice
Whisk  all together together in a small bowl. 

To make the fritters
2 tins of sardines
2 eggs
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
small bunch parsley, chopped
3/4 cup breadcrumbs
2 tbsp grated parmesan
25g feta cheese crumbled
A handful of lettuce leaves
fresh lemon juice and wedges for garnish

Mix together the tins of sardines, eggs, finely chopped garlic, chopped parsley, breadcrumbs,  grated Parmesanand feta in a large bowl. Heat about an inch of oil in a large frying pan till it spits when you put a test crumb in. Make small balls (approximately 1 inch in diameter) of the sardine mixture and fry for three to four minutes until golden brown, turning them occasionally with tongs. Place the fritters on a plate with a kitchen towel underneath to absorb the oil. 
Serve on lettuce leaves with the Sriracha-soy sauce in a small dipping bowl and some fresh lemon wedges.

Sardine sushi ( pictured top )

In Japan Nigiri sushi would be known as a ball of seasoned rice,with aslice of salmon on top but it can be varied.In my recipe the riceis topped with Portugues sardines and chives.

  • Mix sugar, salt and rice vinegar in a small pan, and gently bring to a boil while stirring. The rice marinade is ready when the sugar and salt has dissolved.

  • Cool the marinade before use.

  • Prepare the rice according to the recipe sushi rice, or follow the instructions on the package.

  • Transfer the rice into a wide dish and gently fold in some of the marinade. Make sure the rice doesn’t get too moist, so add a little at a time.

  • Set the rice to cool in room temperature.

  • Remove the sardines from the oil and let drain on a paper towel.

  • Mix water with a little rice vinegar, and lightly moist your hands to prevent the rice from sticking.

  • Take approx. 1 tbsp of sushi rice, and use your hand to gently make an oval ball shaped like a grain of rice.

  • Spread a little wasabi on a ball of rice and place a sardine over. Carefully press along the sides and on top so the sardine and rice holds together.

  • Sprinkle chopped chives over.

Serve the sushi with soy sauce, wasabi and pickled ginger.

A Few other Ideas for Sardines

  • Spread a smear of softened butter or aioli on thick-cut bread, toast or crackers. Top with sardines, raw onions tossed with lemon juice and whatever fresh herbs you have on hand. Squeeze with more lemon or a splash of vinegar, and sprinkle with flaky salt and ground pepper. Eat open-faced, or top with another piece of bread for a sandwich.

  • Heat a few tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet, and toast garlic until golden brown. Add a pinch of red pepper flakes, the zest of one lemon (or, finely chop a half a lemon — seeds removed — and add that), some al dente pasta like spaghetti and a few splashes of pasta cooking water. Season with salt and pepper, and toss to coat in the garlicky oil. Add a few sardine fillets, and toss to coat, letting them fall apart slightly, but keeping large pieces intact. Finish with another good squeeze of lemon or splash of vinegar (or raisins soaked in vinegar, if you are a raisin person), and a handful of chopped parsley or chives.

  • Place a few sardines on the bottom of a plate or bowl and top with an abundance of shaved vegetables like fennel or radish and assertively dressed, preferably peppery greens, a handful of crushed olives or capers and a halved jammy egg. Niçoise-y.

  • Pluck them from the tin and dress with soy sauce, rice wine vinegar or white distilled vinegar, a finely chopped fresh or pickled chile or a pinch of red-pepper flakes. Eat over a bowl of warm rice with thinly sliced cucumbers.


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