A few days ago I was hunting for one of my recipe books and found an old one I’d bought in the early 80s and hadn’t opened for years. Many of the recipes are based on classical French cooking methods but all are easy. There are lots of interesting ideas. I know that I’m going to start referring to it again for inspiration for new recipes myself. The idea for this week’s recipe of baked stuffed sardines came from that book. The fresh sardines came from Jimmy on Saturday. His assistant Hamish sells the sardines as is or cleaned and de-boned if you don’t want to do that yourself. I used spinach and young cavalo nero from Fresh Gardens so the bunches refer to the size they sell.
- 10 fresh sardines, gutted, heads removed and butterflied, tails left on
- 1 large onion, finely chopped
- 3 bunches spinach or 2 spinach and 1 cavalo nero, roughly chopped
- 250g button mushrooms, minced in a food processor
- 1 x 80g packet Boursin cheese (garlic and herb flavour)
- Zest of 1 lemon
- Juice of ½ lemon
- Freshly grated nutmeg
- Handful of toasted pinenuts
- Coarse breadcrumbs made from stale bread
- Olive oil
- Tiny pinch cayenne pepper (optional)
- Salt and pepper
Heat a little olive oil in a large frying pan. Add the onion and soften for a few minutes. Then mix in the spinach and/cavalo nero, lemon zest and fresh nutmeg. Cook till the vegetables wilt. Season and set aside to cool a little.
Next place the minced mushrooms in a bowl with the Boursin cheese. Mix the two together well and then add the pinenuts, lemon juice and seasoning. Add nutmeg if you like and cayenne pepper.
Spread about ¾ of the spinach mix over the bottom of a gratin dish that will hold the sardines snuggly. Add the rest of the spinach to the mushroom mixture.
Lay the sardines on a board or bench skin side down. Cover the top of each sardine with a layer of the mushroom mix. Gently roll the end of the sardine that doesn’t have the tail towards the centre and bring over the tail end so it just overlaps. Place in the gratin dish on the spinach with all the tails facing the same way. Somehow they seem to stay together. Sprinkle with breadcrumbs and a good drizzle of olive oil.
Bake in a preheated oven at 180-200°C for about 10-15 minutes. The breadcrumbs should be golden.