Tinned sardines are one of the most underrated items of food in my opinion. They are healthy, cheap, extremely tasty and best of all don't have hard bones to sort through. Since being a child I have eaten them on toast: sometimes in the tomato sauce they came in (if feeling very lazy) or other times draining them of their oil and placing on top of a bed of onions fried in spices.
Over the last couple of years I have experimented with cooking them. I may anger a lot of people here, but I have come to the conclusion that I prefer them to fresh sardines. Firstly because of the aforementioned practical issue of the bones and secondly because they are so ridiculously juicy (and fishy). Like their fresh counterparts they respond very well to bold spices being chucked at them. A few nights ago we ate them pan fried and crisp alongside a fennel, broccoli and green bean salad.
Spiced sardines with a crunchy green salad
For the sardines:
- tinned sardines in oil, 2 tins
- flour, half tbsp
- harissa, tbsp
- coconut oil, tbsp (or 2 tbsp vegetable oil)
For the salad:
- broccoli, a small head
- trimmed green beans, handful
- fennel, medium bulb
- shredded lettuce (a mild tasting green one), large handful
- capers, tsp (rinsed)
- garlic, 3 cloves
- juice of half a lemon
- extra virgin olive oil, 2 tbsp
- toasted pumpkin seeds, small handful
Start by making the salad. Cut the broccoli into small florets and the green beans in half. Bring a large pan of water to the boil and cook add the broccoli and green beans. Cook for a few minutes, remove and place in cold water for a few minutes. Drain and place into a large salad bowl.
Thinly slice the fennel into strips (a mandolin helps) and add to the bowl with the lettuce.
To make the dressing smash the garlic with a pinch of sea salt in a pestle and mortar. When mashed add the capers and grind a bit more. Mix with the oil and lemon juice and toss over the salad along with the toasted pumpkin seeds.
Now for the sardines. In a bowl, mix together the harissa with the flour and add a little bit of water if needed to form a slightly thin paste (or a rather thick batter). Drain the sardines of their oil and place into the harissa mix. Heat the oil in a frying pan over a high heat. Add the sardines and cook for a couple of minutes each side until crisp-looking. Place on some kitchen paper to dry and serve with the salad.