‘Maggie Beer’s love of cooking is infectious, and she’s someone who has an instinctive feel for flavour and taste. This simple supper recipe is one of those great European peasant dishes that’s good value, healthy and utterly, utterly delicious. It combines those gutsy, sweet-and-sour flavours that remind me so much of my honeymoon in Sicily. If you can’t find sardines, use mackerel, but make sure it’s zingingly fresh’

Thomasina Miers

Spaghettini with sardines, sultanas and breadcrumbs

Extract from Maggie Beer’s Maggie’s Table

Published by Lantern

Serves 4

Ingredients

½ cup (75g) sultanas
125ml verjuice
12 fresh sardines
¾ cup (65g) flaked almonds
Extra-virgin olive oil
2 cups (100g) breadcrumbs from stale, wood-fired bread
1 large brown onion
8 anchovy fillets
200g best quality dried spaghettini
Unsalted butter
2 tbsp roughly chopped wild fennel or flat-leaf parsley
2 tbsp lemon juice
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Lemon wedges

Method

Put the sultanas and verjuice in a bowl and soak for 1 hour, or microwave on high for 2 minutes. Drain. Scale the sardines, then cut off the heads. Slit the underbelly of each sardine and remove the entrails. Using your thumb and index finger, hold a sardine down at the point where the head meets the backbone.

With your other hand, pull the head backwards, taking the backbone and the tail as you go. This will leave you with a boned and butterflied sardine. Repeat with the remaining sardines, then flatten out the fillets. Rinse well under cold water, pat dry with kitchen paper and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 200˚C. Rub the almonds with 1 tablespoon olive oil and toast in the oven until golden brown. Rub the breadcrumbs with 2 tablespoons olive oil, then scatter on a baking tray and toast in the oven until golden brown.

Roughly chop the onion and anchovies separately. Sauté the onion in a quarter cup [60ml] of olive oil in a frying pan until translucent. Stir in the almonds, drained sultanas and chopped anchovy, then set aside.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the spaghettini until al dente. Drain.

Meanwhile, heat a knob of butter with a splash of olive oil and pan-fry the sardine fillets over a medium heat for 2 minutes on the first side and 1 minute on the second, then add the chopped fennel or parsley and set aside.

Toss the onion mixture, breadcrumbs and lemon juice through the cooked spaghettini and season with salt and pepper. Gently toss the sardines and fennel through the pasta and serve immediately, with lemon wedges alongside.

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