Spicy Sardine Fillets on Roasted Smashed Potatoes
By Amy Crawford
Far out I love it when a plan comes together - and did this plan come together! It was high fives all 'round in my kitchen on this creative culinary evening.This recipe marks the first time I ever cooked with fresh sardine fillets and I can guarantee it won't be the last. Assuming you buy your sardines filleted, these tiny little fillets take just a couple of minutes to cook allowing for a simple, last minute dinner. The internet is full of sardine filleting instructions so I will delve into that domain at some stage - but when my local markets do the hard work for me it's an offering I find difficult to ignore.
So a little bit on sardines, being a relatively new addition to my diet. Given my past experience with worrisome toxicity readings (with mercury being the biggest offender) I removed almost all fish from my diet for a couple of years, bar wild Alaskan salmon as an irregular treat. Now that my health is so much better I am gradually introducing more fish into my diet though remain wary of my choices. I tend to steer clear of any large fish such as tuna, flake or swordfish. The reason for this is that large fish contain high amounts of mercury, because fish are unable to expel the mercury they absorb. To further explain, large fish eat smaller fish who eat smaller fish who eat smaller fish....so you can imagine the mercury content of the large fish, having ingested all of the smaller fish! That being said...smaller fish are a far safer bet for me, hence my new love affair with the sardine.
The health benefits of sardines:
Sardines pack a nutritional punch for such a little fish! Loaded with Omega 3 fatty acids, brimming with protein (approximately 23 grams per serve), and high in calcium, iron and potassium, this food source offers optimum nutrition without a high calorie content. What's more, the sodium content of sardines is relatively low compared to other tinned seafood. Here are some ways in which consumption of this fish can assist you:
1. Strong bones - due to their significant calcium content.
2. Healthy skin - brimming with essential fatty acids, sardines serve to reduce skin inflammation and regenerate and nourish the skin, giving skin a more youthful appearance.
3. Healthy hearts - the rich Omega 3 content of sardines are able to assist in the prevention of heart disease. Omega 3 fatty acids serve to break down the LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol) in our bodies, while also breaking down arterial plaque which is the cause of blocked arteries and unhealthily high blood pressure.
4. Minimal toxic burden - as mentioned above, sardines are relatively low in the oceanic food chain, meaning the toxins that accumulate in their small bodies are less than longer loving marine predators (tuna, salmon etc). Thus fewer toxins are transferred to our bodies upon consumption.
5. Antioxidant properties - rich in selenium, sardines are able to assist in neutralising free radicals in our bodies, protecting our organs from damage.
What's more, sardines are often the best option in sustainable fishing (in Australia). Though be sure to read the packaging to make sure.
For the smashed potatoes:
Approximately 6 new or baby potatoes
A good glug of olive oil
Sea salt & pepper
For the sardines:
6-8 fresh sardine fillets
1/2 red onion, finely chopped
1/4 cup kalamata olives, pitted and chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tablespoons rice flour
1 tablespoon pine nuts
1 large handful English or baby spinach
1 large red chilli, seeded and finely diced
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
A good pinch sea salt & pepper
A good glug extra virgin olive oil
To prepare the potatoes, place them in a small saucepan, cover with water and bring to the boil. Turn down heat to a gentle boil and boil for 20 minutes or until just soft. Remove from the heat and drain. Place the potatoes between 2 tea towels (or paper towels) and gently crush with your hands. Leave to cool and then pop in the fridge for a good hour or two or overnight.
The next day, heat your oven to 220 degrees. Place the potatoes on a baking paper lined tray, drizzle with olive oil and season with sea salt and pepper. (Add a sprinkle of finely chopped rosemary as an alternative, it's sensational!) Roast for 30-35 minutes, or until they are golden and crispy on the edges.
To prepare the sardines, combine the flour, cayenne, salt and pepper on a plate. Roll the fillets gently in the mixture. Set aside.
Place a medium to large frying pan on medium heat. Add the olive oil. Saute the onion, garlic and chilli for 3-4 minutes or until the onion is translucent. Add the olives, pine nuts and create some space for the fillets. Add the fillets to the pan and fry for 2 minutes on one side until browning and gently turn, adding the raw spinach to the pan. Season with salt and pepper. Cook for a further 2-3 minutes, gently stirring the rest of the ingredients to ensure they don't burn, being careful not to break up the sardines. Once the spinach has wilted you are good to go!
Serve sardines over smashed potatoes with a drizzle of lemon juice.
Smashed potatoes straight out of the oven. Mmm.