SARDINES on toast with Suquet. Picture: Laura-Edwards
SARDINES on toast with Suquet. Picture: Laura-Edwards

3 ways to turn sardines into a surprisingly sophisticated snack

By Lutho Pasiya Time of article published Jun 8, 2021

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I know many people who don’t like sardines because they have never had them, don't like the idea of them, or have eaten badly prepared ones.

Many people don't know that sardines are full of flavour, economical, and meaty and make for a quick and easy snack. Making things more interesting for KwaZulu-Natal locals is that they have finally arrived on the coast.

So, if you’re one of the people who will be on the run for sardines or one of those who will be trying out a sardine dish, here are three recipes that will make you appreciate all your hard work getting the sardines.

Sardines on toast with Suquet

Serves: 4


50ml olive oil

2 large onions, finely chopped

​1 green pepper, finely chopped

1 tbsp 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


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 garlic, lemon zest and juice, and parsley.

Set 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 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 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 'Barcelona and Beyond' by José Pizarro.

Broiled Sardines with lemon and thyme

Serves: 6


1 lemon, thinly sliced, plus lemon wedges for serving

12 or more fresh thyme sprigs, plus chopped fresh thyme for garnish

8 to 12 large sardines gutted, with heads on

Salt and black pepper

3 tbs extra virgin olive oil


Heat the broiler until hot. Move the oven rack as close to the heat source as possible. Heat a sturdy pan for about 5 minutes.

Wrap a lemon slice around each thyme sprig and stuff inside the sardines; sprinkle with salt and pepper. When the pan is hot, remove it from the oven and pour in half of the olive oil, then put the sardines in the pan and drizzle with the remaining oil.

Broil for 4-5 minutes, then check the sardines; they’re ready when they’re opaque, the tip of a knife flakes the thickest part easily, and the outside is nicely browned.

To serve, carefully remove the sardines with a spatula, sprinkle with more herbs, and pour the pan juices overall.

Serve with lemon wedges.

Recipe by Mark Bittman for The New York Times.

Simple grilled sardines


8 fresh sardines, cleaned and scaled

Salt and pepper

Extra-virgin olive oil

2 medium fennel bulbs, trimmed and finely sliced

Lemon wedges

2 tbsp chopped parsley, for garnish

Prepare a medium-hot charcoal fire or stove-top grill pan, or light the broiler.


Season sardines inside and out with salt and pepper and paint both sides lightly with olive oil

Lay sardines on the grill and cook them on one side for about 2 minutes, until nicely browned. (Sardines rarely stick to the grill.) Carefully flip sardines and cook for about 2 minutes more, until just done.

Transfer each portion to individual plates. Put the sliced fennel in a bowl and season with salt and pepper.

Dress with about 2 tablespoons of olive oil and a squeeze of lemon. Place a pile of dressed fennel evenly on each plate.

Serve with lemon wedges and a sprinkle of parsley.

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