Updated: Aug 9, 2020
by Rick Stein from Rick Stein’s Secret France (BBC Books / Penguin Random House)
I wrote this recipe as a result of some irritation at being given such delicacies as perfectly fresh sardines in the fishing village of Port-Vendres that had been fried within an inch of their lives. It was almost like eating sticks. I'd noticed the same phenomenon after a morning's freshwater fishing on the Dordogne River. We had a lunch of hard-fried gudgeons, minnows, crayfish and eels, all overcooked in the same way; the saving grace was the mayonnaise. Granted a lot of river fish are quite tasteless but not sardines. No excuse there. Here's a better way.
12 sardines, cleaned
1 tbsp olive oil
juice and zest of ½ lemon
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
½ large clove garlic, grated or very finely chopped
¼ piment d’Esplette (a red chilli from the Pays Basque region), or a pinch of chilli flakes (which Nigel used)
1 medium tomato, skinned and cut into small dice
1 small shallot, finely chopped
1 thyme sprig, leaves chopped
1 tsp chopped flatleaf parsley
salt and black pepper
1. Mix the ingredients for the dressing in a small bowl and season with salt and plenty of pepper.
2. Brush the sardines all over with the oil and sprinkle them with a pinch of salt. Grill them on a hot barbecue or under a hot grill for about two to four minutes on each side, depending on size.
3. Spoon the dressing over and around the sardines and serve with a green salad.