It’s a funny old world. Our Cornish pilchards have undergone a re-branding of late and are often now known as Cornish sardines. Presumably this is because as a nation we’re keener to eat sardines, redolent of sunny Mediterranean holidays, than pilchards, which some of us associate with less-than-stellar canned fish (although done well, a tinned pilchard is a thing of beauty).
There’s some confusion as to the difference between the two but the UK Sea Fish Industry Authority says a sardine is a young pilchard and that’s good enough for me. They are excellent simply seasoned, rubbed with a little oil and slipped onto a barbecue but this dish is Mediterranean in inspiration. It makes a good summer lunch or supper.
I bought my sardines ready prepped and butterflied from the excellent Mummery Bros of Lowestoft. Otherwise, have a look at this video. It’s very quick and easy. Normally I use pine nuts in this recipe but I ran out, so I substituted chopped pistachios. It turned out to be a happy accident.
9-12 boned sardines
3-4 heaped tbsp soft breadcrumbs
30g pine nuts or chopped pistachios
Pinch of sugar
3 anchovies, pounded to a paste
1 tbsp finely chopped parsley
1 tbsp finely chopped onion
Zest of 1/2 lemon
Olive oil, salt and pepper
Lemon wedges, to serve
Sauté the breadcrumbs in olive oil until lightly browned. Place in a bowl and add the pounded anchovies, nuts, sugar, lemon zest, chopped parsley and onion and a good grind of salt and black pepper. Mix well.
Rub a shallow baking dish with a little oil. Put some of the stuffing into the cavity of each fish. Lay them side by side in the dish in a single layer. Sprinkle any remaining stuffing on top and drizzle with olive oil.
Bake in the pre-heated oven for 30 minutes. Squeeze lots of lemon juice over them and serve, garnished with a little more parsley.