Nigel’s midweek dinner
Sardines with tomato and orange
You will need 3 or 4 sardines per person depending on their size. Score the fish on each side, 3 of 4 scores on each one, cutting almost through to the bone.
Slice 6 medium-sized tomatoes thinly, about 5 or 6 slices per fruit, and set aside in a mixing bowl. Slice away the peel from 2 oranges, then cut the fruit into thick slices and add to the tomatoes. Pour over 1 tbsp of olive oil and toss gently together.
Cut an orange in half and place cut side down on a heated grill or griddle. Mix 1 tbsp of sea salt flakes and 2 tbsp of thyme leaves, crushing them together using a pestle and mortar. Rub the flavoured salt into the sardines, then cook on the heated grill until the skin is lightly crisp. A little blackening of the skin is good.
Remove the oranges and squeeze the warm juice over the tomato and orange. Season with black pepper and toss the ingredients together. Serve the tomato salad with the sardines. Enough for 2.
In the past I often found sardines invariably stuck to the bars of the grill or the ridges of the griddle pan. This can be prevented by getting the grill or griddle really hot before the fish is added. The underside of the skin crisps quickly in the heat, then the temperature can be lowered so the flesh cooks right through to the bone. Putting raw fish on a grill that isn’t hot enough will almost certainly ensure it sticks.
Sardines are not always easy to track down, but are plentiful during the summer and autumn months. Mackerel is a worthy alternative, grilled as whole fillets, lightly scored. Small fish can be grilled whole. A handful of onion rings, tinged brown from 10 minutes on the grill makes a worthwhile addition to the tomato and orange salad, as would some torn basil leaves. ■