One dish using tinned sardines that has always been a cheap and delicious stand by for me is one I created years ago when times were hard – cue violins and characters dressed in Dickensian rags. Well, they were not that hard, but you know what I mean – penny-pinching, struggling student etc etc….yawn,, get on with it! OK… Basically, it is pasta with a sardine sauce.
Tin of sardines in oil or tomato / Capers / pinch of dried oregano /Chilli flakes/ Olive oil / Tomato puree or sauce / Spaghetti / Salt and pepper.
Strip the spines out of the sardines and add to a bowl. Add a good teaspoon of rinsed capers, a glug of olive oil, a sprinkle of chilli flakes, the oregano and a dash of salt and pepper. Mix together, breaking up the sardines. Add a dash of tomato puree or tomato sauce. Stir into hot spaghetti and you will not regret it! Sometimes I add a few fresh herbs that might be loitering with intent – e.g. basil or dill or coriander – all work well.
And, smelly as they are when cooking, it is worth giving the fresh ones a go. Open all the windows first though and warn the neighbours! Sprinkle them with rock salt and leave for an hour or two in a coldish place. Whatever you choose to cook them on, griddle pan, frying pan, plancha or barbecue, ensure the pan is very hot before starting. Take the sardines from the salt but do not brush off all the salt. Cook them for 4 minutes per side, but do not lift them whilst they are cooking. Be brave! If you move them too much they will split. Once you reckon they are a little burnt, turn them over and cook the same way. Serve with fresh lemon. Folk in the med do not gut or fillet the sardines. No need. Though I see that supermarkets are now selling them ready gutted, which might be up your street. However, whole ones taste best to me.