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Marinated Sardine Fillets

A moreish fish dish that serves up sardines a simple way. The easy recipe combines sardines with lemon juice, sea salt, red chillies and sprigs of fresh thyme.

From the book

Simon Hopkinson


The instruction ‘Ask your fishmonger to fillet and bone the fish for you’ fills me with fear and trepidation these days. I mean, just how many skilled fishmongers are there left? I recently saw a clutch of magazine recipes where the reader was instructed to ask his monger to de-beard his big bag of mussels … I imagine the muttered reply to this request would be, how shall we say, mostly unprintable, here.

Anyway, it is possible to do it yourself, with trial and error, but a truly dedicated fishmonger will be more than happy to, especially if you are a regular customer. Just give him some notice, is all I ask. The occasional supermarket fishmonger may also be able to help.

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Approx. 700g very fresh, large sardines (Cornish pilchards, usually), filleted, or use similar-sized herrings
50g sea salt
Juice of 1 large lemon
1 medium onion, peeled and thinly sliced
A few black peppercorns, sprigs of fresh thyme, crumbled dried red chillies, a bay leaf or two …
7-8 tbsp fruity olive oil


Put the fish fillets into a rectangular dish and strew with the salt. Cover, and put in the fridge for 24 hours, turning them once. Lift out the fillets, throw away the exuded, salty juices, rinse them and pat dry. Now, put the fillets into a plastic box that has a lid. Squeeze over the lemon juice, cover with the onions and scatter with the peppercorns, thyme, chillies, bay, etc. Spoon over the olive oil, put on the lid and place in a very cool place for 24 hours – preferably not in the fridge, unless the weather is more than clement. Remove to room temperature 1 hour before serving, decant on to a pretty serving dish, and eat with brown bread and butter. For a light lunch or supper dish, serve up with a bowl of hot, buttered new potatoes.

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From the book: The Good Cook

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