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
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 LinderReuse content