The exciting new development in my life, and the reason why I haven’t been blogging this week, is that I’ve moved. In every way this is a good thing. I’ve got a whole new part of London to explore, this flat feels mine in a way that my previous flat never did (even though I’ve only unpacked half my stuff and I lived in the other flat for two years), and it gets tons of light all day long. While delightful generally, from the perspective of my food blog this is FANTASTIC, as it means that I’ve got wonderful natural light to play with when photographing the things I cook. And let’s face it. On the internet, at least, we eat with our eyes, and fluorescent lighting doesn’t do food any favours. The bad news is that my budget is even more constrained, which probably means much less dining out and more home cooking. But I love to cook, and this hopefully will inspire me to be creative in cooking delicious food for relatively little money.
Which brings me to sardines. Sardines have laboured under a bad rap for far too long. Most of us, when we think of sardines, think of stinky oily filets packed in a tin. I actually like tinned sardines, but fresh sardines are utterly delectable. And they’re an incredible source of calcium (better, even, than dairy) and they’re cheap as chips. At the fishmonger where I bought these sardines, they were £6 a kilo. Which means that my two sardines cost 70 p, and my lunch probably cost no more than £1.30 in total. And it was one of my favourite things I’ve cooked in a while.
I’ve scaled up the amounts in this recipe, so you can serve it to friends. I bet it would be brilliant with a nice glass of crisp white wine.
8 whole sardines, scaled and gutted (You can ask your fishmonger to this, or, if you’re not squeamish, you can do it yourself. Remove the scales by scraping the blunt side of a knife against the fish from tail to head under cold running water. Then, using a small sharp knife, slit the fish’s belly from tail to middle, scoop out the innards, and rinse well.) You can also substitute 16 sardine filets but your plate won’t look as pretty.
2 tablespoons semolina flour
½ teaspoon espelette pepper (you can substitute sweet paprika if espelette pepper is unavailable)
½ teaspoon salt
1/3 to ½ a cup of tomato-garlic-anchovy sauce
¼ pound of arugula or other strong greens
Extra virgin olive oil
Combine the semolina, espelette pepper, and salt in a bowl. Dredge the sardines by gently tossing them with the semolina mixture in a wire mesh sieve.
Glug a generous amount of olive oil in a frying pan and heat over medium heat until the oil sizzles and spits if you dip a sardine in. Fry the sardines, turning once, until golden brown on each side, and then transfer to a paper towel-lined plate.
To serve, put a small handful of arugula in the center of a plate. Lay the sardines on top side by side and then spoon on about 1-2 tablespoons of the tomato-garlic-anchovy sauce. Drizzle with olive oil, and serve immediately.