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Sardines on toast with suquet  (Serves 4)

This is my idea of the perfect comfort food. You have to eat it with your hands – getting a bit messy is part of it. I’ve made some changes to the traditional recipe, which usually has lots more sauce and is served in a bowl rather than on toast.

Ingredients
50ml olive oil
2 large onions, finely chopped
​1 green pepper, finely chopped
1tbsp pimentón (paprika)
500g small waxy potatoes
1 dried choricero pepper
300ml fresh fish stock
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the sardines

4 small fresh sardines, filleted
1 garlic clove, finely sliced
zest of 1 lemon and a squeeze of juice
​2tbsp finely chopped parsley
olive oil for deep-frying
3tbsp plain (all-purpose) flour, seasoned with salt and pepper
1 free-range egg, beaten
4 slices sourdough, toasted
extra virgin olive oil to drizzle

Method

The sardines are usually grilled, not fried. I’m also using potatoes to thicken the sauce, rather than picada, as I think it makes it all the more comforting. 
Put the sardines in a dish with the garlic, lemon zest and juice and parsley. 
S et aside to marinate while you make the suquet.
Heat the olive oil in a pan and gently fry the onions and pepper for 20 minutes until really softened. 
Add the pimentón and cook for a minute. Insert the tip of a sharp knife into the potatoes and twist to crack them open (instead of slicing). 
Add them to the pan with the choricero pepper, stock and plenty of seasoning. 
Cover and simmer gently for 40 minutes until the potatoes are tender and the sauce thick.
In a small deep pan, heat the olive oil for deep-frying to 180°C – or until a cube of bread browns in 20 seconds. 
Remove the sardines from the marinade and pat dry with kitchen paper. Dip in the seasoned flour then in the beaten egg. 
Carefully drop into the oil and fry for just a minute or two until golden and crisp. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen paper. 
Spoon the suquet onto the toasted sourdough, top with the fried sardines and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil to finish.

Recipe from  Catalonia: Recipes from Barcelona and Beyond by José Pizarro. The book is available on Loot.co.za for R425. Click here to purchase

The Independent