As if small, oily fish weren’t enough of a joy to eat already, they make an excellent vehicle for spices. Their robust flavour means that they stand up well to a pinch of something punchy. Whether sardines, mackerel or trout – start thinking beyond standard vegetables or a salad, and let your mind wander into the realms of punchy aiolis, sharp-pickled beets and thick harissa.
Sardines got a bad reputation as ‘pilchards’ – but when bought fresh and cooked quickly (pan-fried or grilled over hot coals) there’s nothing better. They’re at their best in late-summer when sardines are plentiful off the Cornish coast, but they are available frozen year-round and thaw-out very quickly.
Instead of using cracked black pepper, I recommend turning to a Hot Smoked Paprika or Cayenne Pepper to season oily fish like sardines. This recipe also uses spicy breadcrumbs and a cayenne-spiked mayonnaise to introduce a bit more heat and texture into a quick and absolutely delicious mid-week meal.