I don’t remember now where I came across this recipe for boned sardines that are wrapped around a stuffing of toasted pine nuts, raisins and onions and then moistened with orange and lemon juice before being baked in the oven, but it has been a favourite way of preparing these fish in my kitchen for many years. The combination of the oily fish, with the acid of the citrus and the sweetness of the onions and raisins is very successful – and so summery.
This recipe is for when the sardines are medium to large in size and need to be gutted and deboned. I use two or three per person as a starter and four or five if it is to be a light main course.
12 medium sardines
1 medium onion – very finely chopped
Olive oil for frying the onions
25 gms pine nuts – dry roasted in a thick based shallow pan
25 gms raisins or currants
chopped fresh flat leaved parsley
fresh bay leaves
100 ml freshly squeezed orange juice
100 ml freshly squeezed lemon juice
Salt and black pepper
Start by descaling the sardines and then cut off their heads, gut them and remove the backbones. Open them out flat.
Prepare the stuffing.
Fry the onions until lightly browned. Add the pine nuts, raisins and parsley and mix well.
Take a small amount of the stuffing and place it at the wide end of the opened out sardine. Roll the fish around the stuffing, starting at the wide end and rolling towards the tail.
Put the fish into a shallow oven proof dish side by side with the tails sticking up. It can be pretty to use individual dishes per person if you have them. I use ramekins that will take two to three fish each if I am making this as a starter, or shallow bowls with four or five fish in each as a main course.
Once you have arranged all the fish, put a bay leaf in between each fish.
For cooking liquid, mix the lemon and orange juice. Pour over the fish to cover half a centimetre up from the base of the dish.
Bake at 180 degrees centigrade for 20 minutes.
Serve with a side salad and fresh bread.
An alternative stuffing is chopped capers, olives and chillies, with a white wine and lemon juice mix for the cooking liquid.