Pilchard and sardine fishing is a part of Cornish heritage and the two names can be easily confused – in the UK, sardines are officially classified as small pilchards and sardines used to be called pilchards once they were canned. But Cornish sardines now enjoy protected food status and the word "sardine" (evoking Mediterranean holidays) is more appealing to the public than "pilchard" (which calls to mind the canned variety). Whatever you want to call it, the fresh sardine or pilchard can be cooked either whole or as fillets and served in the same way that you would a mackerel or herring.
8-12 sardines or pilchards, filleted
A little flour for dusting
A little vegetable or corn oil for frying
For the potato salad
3 medium shallots, peeled, halved and finely chopped
One-third of a tsp ground cumin
1tsp cumin seeds
100ml chicken or vegetable stock
30ml cider or white wine vinegar
400g large new potatoes, peeled cooked and cut into cm slices
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1tbsp parsley, finely chopped
30-40ml olive or rapeseed oil
First prepare the potatoes: in a pan, simmer the shallots, ground cumin and seeds, two-thirds of the vegetable stock and the white wine vinegar until almost completely reduced.
Add the sliced potatoes and the rest of the stock, stir well, cover and cook gently over a low heat for another 4-5 minutes, giving an occasional stir. The liquid should have almost disappeared and the potatoes should be falling apart a little. Stir in the olive oil and parsley and replace the lid to keep warm.
Heat a little vegetable oil in preferably a non-stick frying pan, season the sardine fillets and very lightly flour the skin. Fry the fillets for a couple 0f minutes on the skin side on a medium heat until crisp, then flip them over and finish cooking for 30 seconds or so; then remove from the pan and drain on some kitchen paper. To serve, spoon the potato salad on to warmed serving plates and arrange the fillets on top.