"During the period of the Bourbons, the Sicilian people couldn't afford meat and substituted fish for the meat in meatballs. Actually, it was probably far healthier than the meat version and full of nutritious omega-3 fatty acids and vitamins. Sardine patties are great for party canapes, served at room temperature with a squeeze of lemon just before serving. Alternatively, they can be made into the size of small hamburgers and served warm with an Orange & Fennel Salad, Sweet & Sour Onions or in a Cherry Tomato Sauce as a starter or main course. Traditionally, they are deep-fried but they work well fried in just a little oil in a non-stick frying pan; or you could bake them in the oven to be healthier. Don't be put off using tinned sardines – they are as healthy as fresh and a great way to use this inexpensive source of protein." - Katie and Giancarlo Caldesi.
15 small fresh sardines (approximately 900 g/2 lb total weight) or 4 x 120 g tins sardines
1 small onion, grated
100 g (3 1/2 oz/1 1/4 cups) fresh gluten-free or wheat breadcrumbs
2 Tbs juicy sweet currants or raisins
3 Tbs pine nuts
Large handful of mint leaves, finely chopped
Large handful of parsley, finely chopped
1 heaped tsp salt and a good twist of freshly ground black pepper
3 Tbs white wine or sweet marsala
3 Tbs extra-virgin olive oil
Seed oil for frying or extra-virgin olive oil for brushing if baking
Cut the flesh of the fresh sardines into small pieces no bigger than 5 mm (1/4 in), discarding the spines and heads. If using tinned, drain them and roughly mash with a fork. Mix the sardines with the rest of the ingredients (except the seed oil or olive oil for brushing).
Test the flavour of the patties by making just one to begin with. Form the mixture into a ball in your hands, approximately 3 cm (1 1/4 in) across. Flatten it slightly and fry it in a little oil on both sides until lightly golden and cooked through. Taste and adjust the seasoning and flavours of the remaining mixture as necessary. Make up the rest of the patties and fry in batches in more oil as before.
To cook them in the oven, space them out on a baking tray lined with baking parchment and brush with a little olive oil. Bake in a preheated oven at 180C (350F/Gas 4) for 15–20 minutes or until cooked through.
Credits: This is an edited extract from Sicily by Katie & Giancarlo Caldesi published by Hardie Grant Books, RRP $49.99 and is available in stores nationally.
Photo Credits: This is an edited extract from Sicily by Katie & Giancarlo Caldesi published by Hardie Grant Books, RRP $49.99 and is available in stores nationally.