There is just one tray of sarde spinate (boned and butterflied sardines) left in the fishmonger’s. The woman next to me is eyeing them up as well, and she’s next in line. However, she makes a fatal mistake and orders some gamberi first, leaving me to strike like a Ninja and grab the last of the sardines. I immediately, of course, feel guilty and offer to give them to her, but she’s being very nice and won’t hear of it.
I’ve stuffed a few sardines in my time, but the idea tonight is to cook my variation on beccafico, the Sicilian dish which basically consists of a dish of baked stuffed and rolled sardines.
So here we go.
Ingredients (for two)
15 boned and butterflied sardines (a strange number, perhaps, but that’s what they had the shop)
15g pine nuts
2 cloves of garlic
Some tomatoes, basil and olive oil
- A friend of ours has left us a nice bottle of gin, so it’s a G&T night instead of a Spritz night
- Blitz the bread into crumbs in a food processor or similar
- Dry fry the pine nuts for perhaps one minute, and then chop with the sultanas, capers and garlic. Add the zest of the orange.
- Add the chopped ingredients to the breadcrumbs and squeeze over the orange juice.
- Spoon out the breadcrumb mix along the middle of each sardine, and roll them up so that the tail is pointing upwards. The idea is that you construct a dish where the upward-pointing tails resemble birds’ beaks.
- Place the rolled-up sardines in a prepared baking dish. They should, ideally, fit quite snugly. Intersperse a few bay leaves here and there, if there’s room. Drizzle with oil, scatter with some more of the breadcrumb mix, and put in a 200 C oven for 10 minutes.
- You will realise at this point that you have made twice as much stuffing as necessary! This is obviously a good thing, as you can freeze the remainder and save it for a quick dinner on another night. This calls for a prosecco!
- In the meantime, prepare a basic tomato salad. It doesn’t have to be a tomato salad, but, in all honesty, there are no other vegetables left in the fridge. Our hearts, we know, are not really that interested in this. But we’re going to do it anyway : small tomatoes, torn basil, olive oil and a sprinkling of salt. You know the sort of thing.
I cooked this to J C Bach’s La Clemenza di Scipione. I’ve never heard this before but I really enjoyed it.
Happy cooking and eating!