If I had added “with oranges” to the title it would have been way too long but it must be said. 😉
This typical Sicilian dish is comprised of sweet, savory and citrus flavours. Its delicate, delicious and very healthy.
Sardines are one of the highest sources of omega 3 and B12 you can get! This dish also contains, iron, protein, vitamins D, C , B3 and so much more.
Has anyone tried Ancestry DNA? That’s the DNA test where you spit into a tube and send it to a lab in Ireland where they analyze your sample and send you a break down of your true ancestry. You know the commercial “I thought I married an Italian….”
Well I did it. First, after 6 weeks, I got a reply from them saying that they could not extract DNA from my sample and that I needed to resubmit one. They kindly sent me a new tube, free of charge. Of course, this had to happen to me.
Me to my husband “Why do you think they couldn’t extract any DNA??” worried face
My husband, “They probably scrapped the sample by mistake or you didn’t give enough of a sample”….pauses….. “IF YOU DIDN’T HAVE DNA, YOU WOULD NOT BE ALIVE!” This of course meant “Shut up and stop being crazy”.
I resubmitted a sample, worried that once again they’d give me the same result and that the authorities would come knocking because I was a living anomaly. But of course, it worked. After what felt like a million weeks, I got my result and learned that I am mostly Italian but as much as 17% of my ancestry comes from countries such as Yemen, Syria, Iraq … It’s not surprising as I am half Sicilian and Sicily was conquered by several civilizations starting with the Greeks 650BC, then Roman Byzantine, Arab (hey there!), Norman, Spanish and Italian as of 1789.
So, why did I just tell you all that and what does it have to do with sardines? Well, because I bought a Sicilian cookbook over the weekend and it shows, very nicely laid out by the way, what each civilization contributed and when. Love it! This recipe for stuffed sardines is from our Arab origins combined with the relatively modern Italian influence and of course, the oranges which are everywhere in Sicily.. People are just tripping over them everywhere they go. All that to say that this is a Sicilian dish with Arab roots.
Sardines Stuffed with Spinach, Pine nuts and Raisins
- 1lb fresh spinach
- 7 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 garlic clove, peeled and roughly sliced
- Salt and fresh pepper
- 1/3 cup pine nuts
- 1/3 cup of sultana raisins (golden raisins) soaked in warm water for 30 min.
- 1/2 cup of fresh breadcrumbs (grated from day-old dry bread, country style loaf, without crusts. The crumb has to be course/chunkier than the store-bought kind.)
- 12 fresh sardines, heads + large pieces of spine and larger bones removed and “filleted”. (See note about sardines)
- 1 orange, sliced
- 8 bay leaves (preferably fresh)
- 12 or more wooden cocktail sticks or heavy duty toothpicks – soaked in water for a bit.
Sardines: My fish monger was confused by my request to behead and fillet my tiny sardines. He looked at me, increadulous “I can’t do that!” he said. I returned the same look saying “but that’s what the book says!“. In a sec, I was gonna have an internal melt-down. I understood though, as these were too small to fillet so he removed the head, and butterflied them. This worked well. 12 of these butterflied sardines used up nearly all of my filling. I hope that this saves you trouble when you get to the fish market. You’re welcome.
I can’t tell you how many times I show up at either a butcher or fish market, recipe book in hand, and I ask for what the book says and I get a puzzled look in return. Sometimes the book is the problem and sometimes it’s them. Urhhh.
Preheat oven to 325. (170c or gas 3)
Steam the spinach briefly until wilted. Drain and allow to cool. Squeeze out excess water so that you end up with a dry-ish ball of spinach. Chop it finely.
Heat 3 tbsp of olive oil in a large frying pan and fry the garlic for just a minute over medium heat. Add the spinach and season generously and combine with the garlic.
Drain the raisins. Chop raisins and pine nuts together and add to the pan and combine. Cook for about 3-5 minutes, stirring continuously.
Remove from heat and allow to cool.
Grease an ovenproof dish with 1 tbsp of olive oil. Set aside.
In a bowl combine spinach mixutre with bread crumbs. Taste for seasoning and adjust.
Lay the sardine flat, fleshy side up, removing as many of the larger bones, debris and the thicker base of the spine if there is some remaining. The tiny bones can be eaten. (this always makes me nervous when I am eating sardines. I fear choking or stabbing myself internally) cough, cough But don’t worry – never happens.
Drizzle your sardines with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
Lay the stuffing down along where the spine would be and pat it down. Roll it up and secure with a toothpick or two. Repeat with each sardine. (no sh*t)
Put them all , standing up, in the ovenproof dish. Place the orange wedges and bay leaves in between each sardine roll. Season again with a little salt and drizzle with a little olive oil.
Bake for 25-30 minutes. They can be served warm or at room temperature as an anitpasto or as a main, accompanied by rice or salad. Drizzle sardines with a little orange, its delicious!
These were phenominal and so mediteranian! I felt like I should be eating this at a sea-side restaurant with a chilled glass of white wine. Glad I was able to make and enjoy a lovely peice of my heritage.
Thanks for reading !!
Stephanie M. xoxo