Starters

Sarde a Beccafico – Stuffed Sardines

Serves 4:

12/16 Sardines filleted open as a book, scaled, gutted, backbone and head removed (ask fishmonger for help)

1 organic orange, half juiced

6 Bay leaves

For the filling:

70 gm breadcrumbs

25 gm pecorino or parmesan cheese, grated

2 tbs Parsley, finely chopped

1 clove of garlic or 1 tbs finely grated onion

30 gm dried black currants

30 gm pine nuts

2 anchovy fillets in olive oil

2 tbs white wine

Extra Virgin olive oil

Sea Salt

Wash and dry the sardines making sure the fillets remain attached.

Warm two tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil in a small pan, gently cook the onion or garlic, without burning. Stir in the anchovies and currants, then mix in the breadcrumbs, the orange zest, wine and other ingredients. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Now stuff the sardines following either of two Sicilian traditions, whether from the west or eastern coast of the island.

In Palermo, sardines are filled with about a tsp of the seasoned breadcrumbs, rolled and packed tightly one next to the other in an oiled oven dish. A quartered slice of an orange and a bay leaf in between rolls.

The tail must be facing upwards as a reminder of the succulent little bird – Beccafico – they are supposed to emulate.

Top with any remaining seasoning and the orange juice.

In eastern Sicily, two sardine fillets are stuffed together with the breadcrumbs as in the picture.

Cook for 12 minutes in a warm oven at 180°C.

Serve warm or cold as a main or starter.

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