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Smoked sardines on toast with parsley salsa

I was reading in the newspaper the other day that the Portuguese sardine fleet was being allowed back out to sea as fishing quotas were being changed. So as we are fast approaching the sardine season, I thought it might be good to share an amazing smoked sardine recipe that will give you awesome smoked sardines or, for that matter, “carapaus” like you have never tasted. It is a bit fiddly but well worth it and will provide you with a lovely starter or lunchtime snack. The recipe is for four people.

▪ 12 good-sized sardines
▪ Sea salt
▪ Thick-cut caseiro bread
▪ Ground black pepper

For the dressing:
▪ 2x small red onions
▪ 3 lemons
▪ Bunch of parsley
▪ Good olive oil

Firstly, descale the sardines. The easiest way is to rub your thumb along the fish and the scales come off easily. When you have completed this, rinse the sardines to remove any final scales and wash your hands to get rid of them too.

With a sharp knife cut along the bottom of the fish, from head to tail, and remove any guts you find and discard. Then “butterfly” the sardine by gently separating the flesh you have cut and from the head to the tail gently press down the back of the fish – this will help to separate the flesh from the bone.

Turn the fish over and gradually detach the head from the fish and pull away, from head to tail, the attached bones. This should remove 95% of the bones. Do not worry, the sardine that is left will look a mess; but this is about flavour! Repeat for each fish. Fiddly bit is now over!

On a clean dry chopping board sprinkle some good sea salt. We are now going to give the sardine fillets a quick cure. Place the sardine fillets on top of the salt and sprinkle more salt and grind some black pepper on top. You should allow this to cure for about 6-7 minutes.

Whilst the fish is curing, you can make the dressing to go over the fish. Chop the red onions as fine as you can be bothered and place them in a bowl. Squeeze the juice of the lemons over the top.

Finally, break off the stems of the parsley, but leave about 2-3cm of stem, which you should chop up and put into the bowl, and then finally rough-chop the parsley leaves and put into the bowl. Now add the good olive oil and mix this great little parsley salsa together. Set aside ready to pour over the smoked sardines.

Back to the sardines, place them in a bowl of water to rinse off the excess salt, but do not leave in too long as you don’t want them absorbing water again, you should notice that the fillets have firmed up. You should pat the fillets dry with some kitchen roll.

Whilst all this has been going on, you should have your smoker or barbecue set at temperature of between 95º to 115º Celsius and sprinkle your wood chips on the charcoal if you are using a smoker, or place them in the smoker box if you are using a gas or charcoal barbecue. As they start to smoke, lay your sardine fillets on the grill and bring your lid down. The fish will hot-smoke very quickly and should be ready to serve in 5-7 minutes.

Thick-cut the bread and toast.

When the fish is cooked, place the bread on the plate and the smoked sardines on top, and finally drizzle the fish and bread with your parsley salsa.

And there you have it! Sardines – the staple diet of Algarveans – smoked and delicious.


Article supplied by Chris Winstanley from Moveison outdoor living store near Lagos