Sardina Pilchardus

It sounds a bit like something Harry Potter would shout, pointing his wand desperately as the minions of evil swarm towards him in the nether regions of Hogwarts. It is, however, the Latin name for the European pilchard, known for marketing reasons these days as the Cornish sardine (or as Voldemort might say, ssssardine).

I’ve written elsewhere about the confusion over sardines v pilchards and if you want to delve further you may find this article of interest. To be honest, I couldn’t care less what they’re called because these taut, silvery little fish are quite simply delectable.

I bought mine ready butterflied from the excellent Mummery Brothers of Lowestoft. It’s not difficult to do but your fishmonger will oblige if you ask him or her nicely.

I’ve given the sardines a Mediterranean spin in this recipe, taking a pinch of spice from Morocco and adding other elements from Spain. They take a little time to marinate but they cook in minutes. Try them with crusty bread and a salad. They feel like a last taste of summer.

Sardines with Tomatoes and Pine Nuts

  • Servings: 3-4 as a light main
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Image of sardines with tomatoes and pine nuts


15-16 butterflied sardines (allow 4 or 5 per person)

About 12 cherry tomatoes

2 tbsp pine nuts

1 tbsp olive oil

For the marinade:

1 tspn ground coriander

1 fat clove of garlic, peeled and crushed

A big handful of chopped parsley

Zest and juice of 1/2 lemon

1 tbsp olive oil

A few grinds of salt and black pepper

For the crunchy crumbs:

About 4 tbsp rough breadcrumbs

1 clove of garlic, peeled and crushed

1 tspn sweet smoked paprika (or hot paprika, or a combination)

1 or 2 tbsp oil

To serve:

Lemon wedges and a few sprigs of fresh parsley

Image of marinated sardines


Mix together the marinade, put the fish in a non-reactive dish and coat them inside and out. Cover and place in the fridge for between one and four hours.

In another bowl, mix together the crumb ingredients and set aside.

When you want to eat, heat a tablespoon of oil in your biggest frying pan and put it on a medium high heat. Depending on the quantity of fish you’re cooking, you may prefer to cook the sardines in one pan and the tomatoes and pine nuts in another, which also guarantees a crisp skin on the fish. Otherwise, cook them alongside each other, giving the fish about three minutes a side and keeping the pine nuts moving so they don’t catch.

In another pan, heat a tablespoon of oil (you may need two, it depends how dry your breadcrumbs are) and fry the crumbs quickly, stirring, until they are golden brown and crunchy.

Serve from the pan, garnished with parsley sprigs and tucking in wedges of lemon to be squeezed over. Serve the crumbs separately to be scattered at will.

Image of sardines with tomatoes and pine nuts

6 thoughts on “Sardina Pilchardus

  1. excellent sounding way with sardines, thanks!… already Jane Grigson (god knows how many decades ago) was pointing out this: pilchards=young sardines

    I cooked them yesterday night: I made a sort of sardine pie: layers of sardines, topped with the usual breadcrumbs+parsely & garlic+ a little grated pecorino + olive oil: very good, especially eaten warm. anna del conte has something similar and I think also the River Cafe

    I have also tried (with excellent results) to sort of … “can” them in the pressure cooker
    have u ever tried the Italian pasta con le sarde? there are similarities with yr recipe, insofar pinenuts and currants are used (lots of dill and toasted breadcrumbs and saffron)

    as much as I love fresh sardines I am also ever so grateful for the canned variety: sardines on toast being one of those super quick and highly rewarding lunches…
    I will definitely try yr version

    • Thank you, Stefano, I hope you enjoy it if you try it. Your way also sounds delicious, as does the pasta con le sarde. So many delicious ways to eat these beauties! Lx

  2. These sound wonderful, Linda. Fresh sardines aren’t easy to find, but there are a few places that carry them once in a while. Next time I come across some, this will be on the menu.

  3. Yummo, a household favourite here. I’m always torn between ready butterflied that have been frozen and fresh which I need to butterfly myself because there is no way i could get MrG to eat sardines if there are bones. I’m off to the fishmonger….

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