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Sardines escabeche - soused sardines with tomato toast

Obviously, recipes such as this, originated in preserving food and some might wonder what could be better than a fresh sardine grilled on coals, with maybe a squeeze of lemon and some good olive oil and fresh bread. And I would have to agree, but these recipes change the ingredient, and you should no longer consider these sardines. A leg of pork roasted has nothing in common with a cured ham. They are two different beasts and so you should consider escabeche in this same way. The infusion of flavours into the marinade imparts quite strong flavours into the fish that it can handle. I add some honey into the marinade and wine too, which breaks with traditio, but I think the vinegar can overwhelm the fish otherwise and also, I am not looking to keep it for months; a few days marinating and it will be gone. I have this with that Mediterranean staple, bread, garlic, olive oil and tomato. I make a great light lunch or picnic food.

6 very fresh large sardines 1 small onion 1 carrot 1 stalk celery 8 cloves garlic Some good olive oil 200 ml white wine A sprig of marjoram and rosemary 1 tsp peppercorns 2 tsp fennel seed 100 ml good quality white vinegar(or cider vinegar) 1 tbsp honey

You want to find a container that will fit the sardines in snuggly together, preferably in one layer. Otherwise you will need more marinade.

Cut the heads of the sardines and season the cavities well with salt, season the outside well with salt and pepper.

Slice the garlic. Chop the remaining vegetables finely. In a pan that will be able to accommodate the vegetables heat some olive oil with the sliced garlic until it begins to colour and add the wine. Now add all the remaining ingredients, bar the vinegar and honey. Simmer very gently until it has reduced by about half. Now add the vinegar and honey. Taste and adjust sweetness of sharpness according to your whim. Now get a frying pan very hot and fry the sardines. The idea is to colour the skin to add flavour but not to cook through as the marinade will do this. Remove from the pan. Now with a slotted spoon put half the vegetables and herbs in the bottom of your chosen container. Put the sardines in snuggly, just like the cans, reverse order, top to tail. Now bring the remaining liquor to the boil again and pour over the sardines. The sardines need to be covered. If they are not, make some more liquor and cover.

For the tomato toast you need some good quality white bread that will not fall to pieces. Get a clove of garlic peeled and halve a tomato. Toast the bread well. Now rub the toast with the garlic get one half of tomato and the cut side down rub intensely into the toast. The flesh of a well ripe tomato will just remain on the toast leaving just the skin in your hand to throw away. Now pour really good olive oil on top and finish with some salt. NOTE: don’t take the tomato from the fridge, cold tomato ruins it for me.

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