Sardines, bull’s horn pepper

Sardines, bull’s horn pepper

By
From
Finding Fire
Serves
4

In the words of Spanish chef Ferran Adrià, ‘A very good sardine is always preferable to a not-that-good lobster’. This is a reminder that an ingredient is only as valuable as its quality. Sadly sardines are too often cast aside (quite literally) as baitfish or viewed as something fishy and bony that comes in tins. A fresh sardine in rigor with its silver blue hue is a beauty to behold. Nobody in the world values the sardine more than the Portuguese, who take to the streets of the capital every year in celebration of their patron saint’s day to grill thousands of the small fish.

Unlike their tinned cousins, grilled fresh sardines exude a delicate oiliness and a briny tang. In this recipe, they are brightened by the sweet vibrancy of the long, thin bull’s horn peppers, which are blistered and blackened to remove their skins then slow roasted, intensifying their sweet flesh.

Ingredients

Quantity Ingredient
12 fresh sardines
10 bull's horn peppers
4 garlic cloves, sliced, trimmings retained for bread
1/2 bunch flat-leaf (italian) parsley, leaves picked
2 sourdough slices
100ml fruity, mild extra-virgin olive oil, such as arbequina or koroneiki
sea salt
juice of 1/2 lemon

Method

  1. 1. Prepare your embers. Arrange a grill approximately 10 cm (4 in) above the embers.
  2. 2. Scale and gut the fish, and remove the heads. Rinse quickly and dry well. Slide your thumbnail along and under the spine from the head to the tail. Press down gently on the spine to butterfly the fish, releasing the spine from the flesh before gently pulling it away. Trim the belly, removing the rib bones. Rinse briefly and pat dry well with paper towel.
  3. 3. Grill 8 of the peppers whole, turning frequently until blistered and blackened all over. Transfer to a bowl or tray, cover with a lid or cloth and allow to steam for 5–10 minutes.
  4. 4. Juice the remaining 2 peppers, then pass the juice through a sieve into a small saucepan. Boil over a medium heat until the liquid is reduced to a syrupy consistency. Set aside.
  5. 5. When they are cool enough to handle, carefully peel the blackened peppers, removing the seeds and retaining the grilled pepper juices. Add the grilled pepper juices to the reduced pepper juice and spoon it over the warm grilled peppers.
  6. 6. In a saucepan of salted boiling water, blanch the garlic for 1 minute until tender, then drain and reserve. Repeat with the parsley, blanching for 2 minutes.
  7. 7. Rub the sourdough slices with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and the garlic trimmings, and grill until golden and toasted. Tear into small pieces and reserve.
  8. 8. Season the flesh of the fish with sea salt, then grill in an enclosed grill rack for 2 minutes, skin side down, until beautifully caramelised. Transfer to a clean tray.
  9. 9. In a small saucepan, heat the remaining olive oil and pour it over the sardines. Add the lemon juice and strain all the juices, along with the oil, back into the pan, whisking continuously until a light emulsion forms.
  10. 10. Arrange the sardines on top of the peppers on serving plates, followed by the blanched garlic and parsley. Finish by drizzling with the warm emulsion and scattering over the toasted sourdough. Serve immediately.
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