The return of the humble: the sardine

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Sardine is a humble nutritious fish that has offered me many meals at home and in taverns throughout my life.

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We used to buy sardines in cone shaped newspapers.  Mr Giorgos, the fishmonger in Thessaloniki’s Kifisia, the neighbourhood I grew up, used to fill them generously with big handfuls.

Saturday has always been a fish day at my parents house in Greece and also the day that mom looks forward to her little glass of ouzo or raki with some sardines or gavros (small fresh anchovies) as a starter.  In the depth of winter we would grill sardines or bake them in tomato sauce in the oven. On sunny  mild days and in the summer we would marinate them in with herbs, lemon and sometimes freshly grated tomatoes to grill outside attracting neighbours for an ouzo meze sit-down and most of the cats in the neighbourhood.

Below is a simple sardine recipe with a Ghanaian twist, a variation of an oven recipe I have enjoyed many times.

Ingredients

  • 10 meaty and large sardines
  • 3-4 freshly grated tomatoes or 2 grated tomatoes and half a tin of chopped tomatoes
  • A large handful of kalamata olives pited and roughly chopped
  • 1 full teaspoon of Ghanaian Shito sauce (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • Salt and pepper
  • Oregano (2-3 pinches)

Preparation:

  1. Mix the tomatoes, Shito sauce, olives, lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper and oregano in a kitchen chopper for a few seconds, until just coarse but well mixed.
  2. Taste and season accordingly and if needed.
  3. Place the sardines in a baking tray, mix well in the marinade.
  4. Bake in a hot and then medium oven for 20 minutes or until cooked.
  5. Or if the barbequing season has started somewhere in the world where you might be, grill and enjoy out side. I guarantee that the sardines will taste even better.

Shito sauce is a Ghanaian sauce that consists  primarily of fish oil and/or vegetable oil, ginger, dried fish and/or crustaceans, tomatoes, garlic and spices.  It should be used in small quantities if you don’t like your dishes too spicy and hot. And it can be quite oily.

Fresh fish has clear eyes (non cloudy), red gills and a natural arch or curve. Buy wisely.

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