Nigel’s mid­week din­ner

Sar­dines with tomato and or­ange

The Observer Magazine - - Food & Drink - Pho­to­graph JONATHAN LOVEKIN

The recipe

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.

The trick

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.

The twist

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. ■

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