tinned sardines london pantry

Three ways with tinned sardines

Either I’m suffering from a bout of Baader-Meinhof or artisanal tinned fish (no, not the John West variety) is having its moment. Case in point, in the space of 10 days,  Nuno Mendes’ new Spitalfields market wine bar and restaurant Taberna do Mercado opened with a section exploring the gastronomic potential of oily conserves of the ocean variety. Days later in Lisbon, I spot pretty little branded tins all over the place and the Rough Guide is imploring me to visit a tin-tastic shop tucked away in Alfama exclusively selling these conserves. Then fast forward to the following thursday at trendy natural wine bar Septime La Cave in Paris, they peeled back the silver lid of a tin of sardines, presented it on a white plate with a wedge of lemon, then chucked us a basket of bread and a fork for scooping up said sardines and soaking up the lovely Mosse.

Tinned oily fish deserves its space on the pantry shelves – it keeps forever and allegedly even gets better with age (or so claimed Harold McGee in an issue of Lucky Peach some time ago, excerpt here). Watch out for the ocean-friendly seal of approval, invest in top notch ones then you can even age them like a fine wine, and make the most of their versatility with some of these ideas below.

Sardine ‘brandade’

From the veg box:
1 medium desiree potato
2 garlic cloves, peeled and halved

150 ml milk
35g Parmesan, grated

From the pantry:
1 good quality tin sardines (drained weight 80g), drained from their oil and backbone removed
1/4 – ½ tsp sweet smoked paprika, to taste
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 200c. Place the potato in a baking dish and into the oven for 1 hour, or until tender. In the meantime, place the garlic cloves and milk in a small saucepan with the sardines. Simmer over a gentle heat for 10 minutes or until the garlic is soft. Whizz up with a hand blender or in a food processor to smooth.

When ready, take the potato from the oven and poke it to check it’s tender. Turn the grill to high in your oven. Leave the potato to cool slightly before scooping out the flesh into a ricer and pressing it through into a bowl. Fold the potato into the sardine and milk mix. Season to taste with the salt, pepper and paprika. Scrape it out into an ovenproof bowl and sprinkle with the parmesan, place it under the hot grill. When golden remove from the oven and serve immediately.

Delicious with skinned roasted red peppers, radishes and Pavilion bakery baguette bien sûr.

sardine brandade london pantry

Tomates farcies with sardines and quinoa

From the veg box:
4 beef or heritage tomatoes
4 sprigs thyme
1 shallot, peeled and finely chopped
1 handful chives, finely chopped
zest and juice of ½ lemon

From the pantry:
1 good quality tin sardines (drained weight 80g)
sea salt
50 g black quinoa
20 g raisins, soaked in 50 ml boiling water for 1 minutes
1 tbsp capers
black pepper
drizzle good quality extra virgin olive oil

Preheat the oven to 200c. Cut the top off the tomatoes about 1 cm across from the top and set aside. Use a teaspoon to scoop the seeds out of the inside of the tomato, leaving the outside skin in tact. Tip them up to pour out any excess juice. (Discard the tomato seeds or rub them on some toast along with some garlic and salt.)

roasted tomatoes london pantry

Open the sardine tin and remove the sardines, open them up and pull out the backbone. Grab a baking tray and drizzle some of the oil from the tin onto the base of the baking tray. Add the tomatoes to the tray, standing upright, add the tomato tops (I leave the stalk on because it’s cute) to the baking tray too. Sprinkle with sea salt and the sprigs of thyme. Cook the tomatoes for 12 minutes, or until soft, but still holding their shape.

In the meantime, pop the quinoa into a pan of boiling water. Simmer for 10 minutes, then drain through a sieve and pop in a bowl. Zest the half lemon and add to bowl of quinoa followed by its juice. Add the raisins, shallots, sardine, capers and chives. Stir to combine, but try not to break up the sardines too much. Season with black pepper and check the seasoning and adjust to taste. Add a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Pop the lids back on and serve as a light starter or side.

tomates farcies with sardines and quinoa

Sardine keftedes

Adapted (very slightly based on availability of ingredients) from Maria Elia’s brilliant book Smashing Plates

From the veg box:
20g mixed herbs (I grabbed marjoram, mint, chives from the patio)

From the pantry:
1 x 400g can of cooked chickpeas, drained
2 tsp tahini
2 x 80g tins of sardines, drained, backbones removed
A pinch of ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground cumin
1 tsp sweet smoked paprika
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
80g fresh breadcrumbs
plain flour, for dusting
Olive oil, for frying

35g mix of Parmesan and feta, grated and crumbled
1 free range egg

Lemon wedges, to serve (optional)

Put the chickpeas, herbs and tahini in a food processor and pulse to break up the chickpeas. Transfer to a bowl and flake in the sardines. Add the spices, cheese, egg and seasoning. Add the breadcrumbs to combine.

Divide the mixture into 12 patties, and dust them with flour. Place on a large plate or tray (whatever fits into your fridge). Chill to firm them up. Be patient as they may fall apart if you skip this step.

Heat a large heavy based saute pan with olive oil over a medium heat. I cooked them in about 3 2 cm deep oil, but you could deep fry. Cook them in batches for about 2-3 minutes on each side or until golden. Drain on a wire rack or kitchen roll. Serve with some leaves and a wedge of lemon.

sardine keftedes maria elia

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