I first devoured a dish similar to this some years ago in the Costa Brava; I’ve endeavoured to emulate it since. Tried and tested, I think I’ve now mastered the recipe. Fresh sardines, coated in flour and shallow fried until they’re just cooked through to preserve them. Then marinated in a tasty, piquant tomato sauce. As the fish, in this case, robust sardines absorbs the vinegary dressing over time, the flavour intensifies, picking up the notes of smoked paprika, bay and thyme.
- 8-10 sardines I bought filleted
- 120 g passata rustica Iused ciro or you can whiz up in a blender good quality plum tomatoes
- 25 ml sherry vinegar
- 350 g cherry tomatoes skinned
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1 tsp smoked paprika (pimenton)
- 1 red chilli finely diced
- 1 bay leaf
- A spring thyme
- plain flour for dusting
- 250 ml sunflower oil
- Olive oil
- Begin by sprinkling the flour on to a dinner plate, then season with salt and pepper. generously coat the sardines in flour, shake off excess and place on a clean plate. Heat the sunflower oil in a shallow pan until it shimmers. Fry the sardines in batches until just cooked through, approximately 2-3 minutes, depending on their size. Set to one side.
- Now heat another pan with 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Chop the garlic and tip into the pan, stir but don’t colour the garlic. Now add the skinned cherry tomatoes. Stir and turn the heat up add pour in the sherry vinegar, let it bubble and deglaze, by this I mean it should reduce by half. Then add the chilli and pimenton, then finally the passata rustica with the herbs. Season with salt and pepper and bring to a simmer and cook for 20 minutes. Check the seasoning and set to one side.
- In a suitable dish pour half of the tomato sauce, then arrange the sardines on top. Pour the remaining tomato sauce on the. Marinate in the fridge for 24-36 hours.
- Serve at room temperature with a mixed leaf salad, crusty bread and a crisp glass of white wine is also recommended.
- Substitute the sardines for mackerel, a similarly robust fish.
- This dish will keep and improve over several days. (Up to 5).