Fresh fried sardines are too good to be missing out on. If you’ve always been a bit scared of buying them, only because you don’t know what to do with them, then this post is for you. They’re cheap, easy to cook, fun to eat and packed with nutrition. The bones are so tiny that you crunch right through them. The tails are so thin they become crispy as chips. They’re best cooked straight away, but if you treat them right they’ll last a couple of days in the fridge.
Easy Fresh Fried Sardines
(No time for chatting? Scroll all the way down for the recipe.)
Making my way from vegetarianism into the Paleo world, I looked well away from sardines. Too messy, I thought. Too fishy. But one day, the sardines looked so fresh, so silver, so glistening, that I took the plunge. I asked my fishmonger to show me how to clean them, and once back home, I applied myself to the job with an enthusiastic spirit of culinary curiosity. It’s not hard: you just break the head off backwards, then insert your finger and draw down the cavity towards the tail to remove the innards. It’s quick and clean, but, lets face it, my fishmonger is much better and much faster at it than I am. He also has a way of disposing with the carcasses. So now I ask him to do the cleaning, and I suggest you do the same. It’ll save you time, and it makes life easier.
We’re in two. The sardines are weighed before cleaning, and I ask for around 300 grams / 10 oz of sardines. This gives us 8 or 9 fried sardines each, which is a good amount for a main meal.
My fishmonger has this bad habit of popping the fish into plastic bags. The bags are biodegradeable, but I think it’s a bad habit nonetheless. I’m a plastic bag recycler. I reuse them for as long as I can, placing supermarket sticker over supermarket sticker, and rinsing them if necessary. The sardine bags need to be washed straight away – don’t let them sit overnight or you’ll never remove the oil. The best way I’ve found to wash the fish bags is to line the cutlery drainer with the bag, fill it with hot water and detergent, swish it all around with the dish brush, rinse it well and then hang it out to dry. I only do this once. If it hasn’t worked and the bag’s remained greasy, I toss it away and pray it doesn’t end up in the belly of an albatross.
How To Keep Sardines Fresh for Two Days
The more obvious reason to take the sardines out of the bag as soon as you get home is to rinse the sardines themselves. This is the trick, in my book, to keeping them fresh. Rinse them. They’ve just been opened and gutted, so they’ll be bloody. Rinse them well in a colander under cold water. Drain them well. Put them into a glass or plastic container, pour off any water that collects at the bottom, pop a lid on, and put them straight into the fridge. The next day, same thing. Rinse them well under a jet of cold water, and if you won’t be cooking them at that point, put them back into the fridge with the lid on.
I’ve never taken them past that two-day point. I buy them on Wednesday and 90% of the time we eat them on Thursday. If something comes up, I make sure to re-rinse them, and we find they’re still fresh on the Friday. Beyond that, I don’t know. You want them to be as shiny as they were when you bought them. Absolutely not slimy. If they’re slimy and smell fishy, throw them away.
How to Cook Fresh Fried Sardines
Once rinsed and re-rinsed, place them on paper towel and pat them dry. Place a little cassava flour into a wide flat bowl. For 18 fresh sardines I use about two tablespoons of flour. Then using two plastic spoons, toss them until coated. (That’s another trick for working with sardines – use utensils, not your hands. Use tongs when you need to handle them one by one, or wear gloves if you prefer scooping them.)
Then, call whoever you’re eating with and tell them to get ready. Once you’re ready to cook them, it all happens really fast. You’ll want to have already prepared the mixed salad or vegetables that you’ll be eating alongside. Heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a large frypan – enough to cover the bottom of the pan. Let it get quite hot, but not steaming. Place the sardines top-to-tail in the pan. Count one minute. Turn them over. Count one minute again. Done. They’ll be crisp around the edges, the silver skins fried to gold.
Serve your fresh fried sardines immedietly, with a wedge of lemon for squeezing, or a dollop of mayonnaise. No need to be precious, now. Just gobble them down, fins, bones, tails, the lot. Revel in the freshness, the simplicity, and the goodness. And put them on your shopping list for next week as well.
Why Sardines are Good For You
According to the World’s Healthiest Foods, sardines are
- an excellent source of Vitamin B12 and Selenium
- a very good source of Phosphorus, Omega 3, Protein and Vitamin D
- a good source of Calcium, Vitamin B3, Iodine, Copper, Vitamin B2 and Choline
They’re also at the beginning of the food chain, meaning they’re free of heavy metals such as mercury.
On the Side
White Fish Cooked in a Creamy Cocunut Sauce with Ginger, Lemon, Thyme and Mint – AIP – An elegant way to serve white fish fillet.
Calamari and Prawn Laksa with Basil and Zoodles – AIP – Make this in your Instant Pot, or on the stovetop.
Salmon Salad with Fennel and Orange – AIP- A surprising and delightful combination of flavours for when you have left over salmon.
What’s your favorite fish dish?
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- 300 grams fresh sardines, weighed before cleaning
- 2 tablespoons cassava flour
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- Rinse the sardines well. Drain and pat dry with kitchen paper.
- Toss the sardines in flour.
- Heat the oil in a large pan. Put the sardines in, top to tail. Fry one minute, turn over, and fry one minute on the other side.