Around the world in 80 dishes No.12: Italy

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Oven-baked sardines with fennel and citrus fruits, by Katie Caldesi





Ingredients to serve 4



juice of half a lemon

200ml fish stock, plus extra as necessary

1kg sardines, cleaned and trimmed

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

handful of flat-leaf parsley, leaves stripped and roughly chopped



For the soffrito:

150ml extra virgin olive oil

1 red onion, very finely chopped

2 celery sticks, very finely chopped

1 medium carrot, very finely chopped

salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 sprigs of fresh rosemary

3 bay leaves

2 x 5cm lengths of orange zest

4 baby fennel, finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, lightly crushed





Method



Fish is an essential part of Italian cooking. Of Italy's 20 regions, only four do not have a coastline, and each of those four regions has lakes and rivers that provide a good source of fish. This recipe was developed during "slow fish week" at La Cucina Caldesi, the Italian cookery school I run with my husband Giancarlo in central London. It uses the classic soffritto (the vegetable base that is used for Italian soups and stews) but with a citrus twist to balance the oily fish. If you can't find fresh baby fennel, use a teaspoon of fennel seeds. Mackerel can also be cooked in this way.

Preheat the oven to 180C/gas mark 4. To make the soffritto, heat the oil in a frying pan and add the onions, celery and carrot. Season. Add the herbs, zest, fennel and garlic and cook over a low heat, stirring regularly, for 15 minutes. Remove and discard the herbs.

Add the lemon juice to the soffritto and cook for a few minutes. Then add the stock and simmer gently for 10 minutes. Season to taste. If the soffritto looks dry, add a little more stock or water. Stir in the parsley and set aside.

Lay each sardine skin-side down on a board. Spread a little soffritto on each one and roll up. Arrange in an ovenproof dish and pour over any leftover soffritto or oil. Put into the oven for 10-15 minutes, or until the sardines are cooked through. Serve with lemon roast potatoes and sautéed spinach.



From The Italian Cookery Course by Katie Caldesi (Kyle Cathie, £30).

Photograph by Lisa Linder

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