Prep Time 20 – 25 minutes
Fresh sardines are plentiful in Sicily , the island surrounded by sea – I would almost say that they are the seafood mascot of Palermo. ‘Pesce Azzurro’ ‘blue water fish’ my Zio calls them. They are such a versatile fish, a far cry from the tinned variety that we grew up on here in Australia. I have started to find fresh whole sardines a lot easier to source at good-quality fish mongers – just make sure that they are impeccably fresh as it makes such a difference. You will also need fresh bay leaves as it is a tradition to place a bay leaf in between each sardine, if you don’t have fresh bay leaves don’t use the dried, use thin slices of lemon instead. Use day-old or stale good-quality bread instead of the store bought bread crumbs and grate it or put it through the blender, it makes such a difference to the filling. If you are not a fan of sardines you can use swordfish, pounded veal or beef, or even slices of fried eggplant, as the iconic Sicilian sweet-and-sour flavour of this combination of ingredients will create a taste sensation from any of these alternatives. .
400g fresh sardines, cleaned and butterflied (ask your fishmonger to do this)
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp lemon juice
Salt and pepper
¼ cup (60 ml) olive oil
½ small onion, finely diced
3 anchovy fillets, chopped
115g day old bread crumbs
1 tbsp orange zest
4 tbsp orange juice
¼ cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
¼ cup (30g) g currants, soaked in hot water for 15 minutes, then drained
¼ cup (20g) pine nuts
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
12 Bay leaves
1 tblsp lemon juice
¼ cup (60 ml) olive oil
Preheat the oven to 180c
Wash and dry the sardines and lay them down flat onto a board with the inside of the flesh facing upwards.
In a frypan add in the ¼ cup of olive oil and heat to a moderate temperature, add in the anchovies and break them up with a spoon or fork. Stir in the breadcrumbs and mix. When the breadcrumb mix has cooled add in the lemon zest, and two spoons of the lemon juice, the sugar, chopped parsley, pine nuts, currants and combine together. If the mix seems too dry and is crumbly add a little more olive oil and if too et then add some more bread crumbs.
Season the mix with salt and pepper and take a small spoon full of the mix and place it at the head end of the sardine. Roll the sardine up finishing with the tail and place it into an oiled baking dish.
Follow the process with the remainder of the sardines placing a bay leaf in between each of the sardines when you are placing them in the baking dish.
Pour over the remainder of the lemon juice and olive oil and bake for 12-15 minutes. Serve hot.