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Grilled Sardines with a Tomato, Garlic and Thyme Dressing

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.

Serves 4


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.

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