Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The Ones That Didn't Get Away....

For those of you who have never experienced them, sardines don't just come in cans. I have to admit that's been my acquaintance with them for most of my life. Any Sardine that didn't have King Ottos'face on it. Never met him.
So, years pass I have sardines in a Portuguese restaurant. Stupendous. A light goes on.Cook them myself however, pass-a-deena. I noticed from time to time that my local Sonoma Market had them and I was determined to try and cook them, then I would forget. This morning at the market I ran into Paula Wolfert who informed me that fresh sardines were in and she'd just bought some. Of course I had to give it a try. I bought a pound of them for lunch. The Fish Man asked me if I wanted him to clean them. I informed him that I'd be doing the honors.
My husband didn't grow up eating a lot of fish, and growing up in an Italian Catholic household we ate fish every Friday. Right here I've got to straighten a few things out. My piscine experiences were not good. My mothers' idea of fish was fish sticks (she's still not a big fish eater) or frozen cod cakes. Blackened (unintentionally) fillet of sole was also a biggie. Because I also grew up in San Francisco I lived for our family dinners at Fishermans' Wharf restaurants where I learned to appreciate crab, shrimp, abalone and calamari. To put it bluntly I never really was turned loose in the world of fish until I was out on my own.
I knew I couldn't put something on my husband' plate that still had a head and tail, and that's what I thought was the cutest thing about these little sardines. Oh well, all marriage is compromise.
I love to cook dishes from Kerala and that particular region is known for its' seafood, so I looked through my various books and explored the world of South Indian Sardine Cookery.
I looked at the methods, which were many a varied and came up with an adaptation that I thought would work.

Here's what I did:
1.) get one pound of fresh Sardines. Either clean them yourself or have your fishmonger (don't you just love that Dickensian word?) do it for you.

One pound of these little suckers fed me and my husband at three small fishies each. Judge and decide how many you will need.

Once they're cleaned, rinse them in cool water and set them aside. Now.
In a bowl mix:
2.) 6 Tbs of coconut powder..that is dried unsweetened coconut, moistened with a small amount of water to make it lively.
3.) Add 2 Tbs ground coriander
4.) 2 tsp. ground cumin
5.) 2 tsp. garam masala
6.) 1 tsp of turmeric
7.) 1/2 tsp of Kashmiri Chili powder..can't find it substitute 1/4 tsp. cayenne mixed with 1/4 tsp of paprika
8.) 1 Tbs of lime juice. (actually I used amchoor powder which is dried powdered mango. If you can't find it, don't have it, lime juice will work too.
9.) 1 Tbs salt

Mix all of these ingredients together in a bowl and open your sardines . Coat the insides of the fish with the mixture and spread it generously on the outside too

Heat some oil in a skillet, we're going to pan fry these little treats. When the oil is nice and hot, put in your sardines. Cook them quickly just a couple of minutes on each side. They should crust up nicely.

When they're done, plate and serve. I guarantee once you've had them this way, King Otto will be history.


  1. Thanks, yes, I've never cooked fresh sardines before. Loved em.

  2. They are so fresh here that we usually just fry them in hot olive oil with a dusting of flour & then some sea salt sprinkled afterwards. So this one on my "to try" list.

    The ones from the Cantabrian Sea are smaller, so a half a kilo (one pound) would make for quite a few sardines. The bigger ones come from elsewhere and are not so appreciated here.



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