There was a particularly nimble fingered woman in the Rialto fish market who could bone and clean a sardine with her bare hands in under twenty seconds.
Impressive stuff, but when it came to handing over my euros the sardines lost out to the more alluring swordfish and crayfish on offer. There was a moment of regret when I realised that I wouldn’t be able to fit any more into my overspilling bags, so I made this dish almost as soon as we landed, to make amends.
For this, all you need is spanking fresh fish and the rest will take care of itself. It wasn’t intended for the barbecue but a row of these would be extremely good lined up on the grill for outdoor eating, perhaps with a simple red onion, tomato and herb salad.
STUFFED SARDINES WITH PRESERVED LEMON AND PINE NUTSServes 2
6 whole large sardines, gutted, washed and dried
3 preserved lemons, chopped
25g (½ cup) dried breadcrumbs
3 tbsp toasted pine nuts
¼ tsp coarsely ground black pepper
4 tbsp chopped parsley
1) Mix together all the ingredients except the sardines, then divide equally between the fish. Stuff the belly cavities quite full with the breadcrumb stuffing, then use a wooden barbecue skewer to sew the fish closed, by weaving once or twice through the body from the tail end to the head end. This will also help the fish stay intact while it’s cooking.
2) Cook the sardines under a very hot grill, or barbecue, for 3 minutes on each side, until the fish is juicy and the skin slightly blackened.