Remember that first cookbook, Where the Heart Is, by Karen Martini? It might have had a bit of a lame title but god it was good. I wanted to cook almost everything in it and pretty much have since it was published in 2006. The recipes are gutsy with the savoury ones invariably concealing a magical salt bomb. We’re talking feta, anchovies, olives or capers all over the joint. We’re talking love.
Anyhow, despite there being some pretty stiff cookbook competition around here, I got Karen down off the shelf again yesterday. She was still fresh, maybe because she never has a chance to gather dust.
I’d bought some gorgeous South Australian sardines at the Sydney Fish Market and knew she’d inspire me. Her sardines wrapped in pancetta with sauce agro dolce were amazing but because all I could get was round, not flat, pancetta, mine ended up looking like little sausages. Her pic, taken by the uber talented Petrina Tinslay is obviously superior, not least because the little exposed fish tails stop them looking like chipolatas.
In her intro Karen says:
Give this recipe a go, even if you think you don’t like sardines. The rich oily flesh of fresh sardines is well partnered with pancetta’s salt-and-pork intensity, and the spicy but sweet tomato sauce marries these flavours perfectly.
The original recipe here suggests serving four as a starter. I made lots more, was only serving two and the leftovers were fab this morning, cold from the fridge. You can play fast and loose with the stuffing herbs, I did.
Which cookbooks do you still use regularly after more than ten years?
Sardines wrapped in pancetta with sauce agro dolce
25g fresh breadcrumbs
1 clove garlic
1 sprig oregano
1 sprig flat-leaf parsley, chopped
8 sardine fillets, butterflied and boned (ask your fishmonger to do this or buy them ready prepared at the fish market)
salt and pepper
8 slices pancetta
2-3 tablesp olive oil
lemon (or lime) to serve
sauce agro dolce
3 tablesp olive oil
1/2 a red onion, chopped (I used a whole one. Who wants half an onion left over?)
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 small red chili, finely chopped
2 red capsicums, roasted, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 x 400g can crushed tomatoes
3 tablesp red-wine vinegar
2 tablesp sugar
To make the sauce, heat the olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add onion, garlic and chili and cook for 3 minutes or til onion is soft. Reduce heat to low. Add capsicum, tomatoes, vinegar, sugar and salt and cook, stirring for 10 mins or til mixture has a sauce-like consistency.
Place breadcrumbs, garlic and herbs in a small bowl and mix well. Season fish and sprinkle with breadcrumb mixture. Fold sardines in half lengthways and wrap in pancetta to seal.
Heat oil in a large frying pan over medium heat and cook sardines for 2-3 mins on one side, turn carefully and cook for another 2-3 mins, or until just cooked through. Spread the sauce onto plates, place the sardines on top and serve with lemon wedges. Serve hot or warm.