This week saw the name day of my dearest Mr K, who was named after his paternal grandfather, Konstantinos. In Greek culture, name days are much anticipated and more significant than birthdays. Name days originate from the Greek Orthodox Church's calendar of Saints - people celebrate on their particular saint’s day with a special feast or party. Traditionally, the person celebrating their name day offers sweets or drinks to family members, friends and work colleagues and in return they are given the blessing of 'Hronia Polla' meaning ‘many happy years’.
Given that my Mr K is a seafood connoisseur, what better way was their to celebrate than with one of his favourites - sardines. The choice to prepare one of Mr K's favourite fish was made even easier by the fact that the fishmonger at my local market that sells them fresh, already filleted in a neat little packet.
While sardines are lovely dipped in flour and fried simply in olive oil with a big squeeze of lemon - a name day celebration called for something just a little more special. This recipe if filled with lots of Greek flavours - rigani, lemon zest and capers - and the panko crumb makes for a wonderful crunch. These little fishy treats were perfect alongside a big bowl of horta - red dandelion, or radiki doused liberally with new season olive oil and lemon, a glass (or two) of chilled ouzo and some fries with feta and rigani - made that little more interesting by the use of some purple Crimson pearl potatoes. This lovely little feast really highlighted all the wonderful healthy flavours of the Mediterranean diet - the sardines, wild greens, lemon, herbs and plenty of new season olive oil all being part of the Greek diet and lifestyle that will bring my Mr K many, many, many, more happy and healthy years to come.
Fried sardines with rigani, capers & lemon (σαρδέλες τηγανητές)
12 Sardines, filleted and tails attached
75g panko crumbs
Zest of one lemon
Handful parsley leaves, finely chopped
1 tablespoon of Greek rigani
1 tablespoon of Greek capers in vinegar, finely chopped
1 clove garlic
Corn flour, for dusting
1 – 2 tablespoons milk
Olive oil for frying
Sea salt to taste
Lemon to serve
1. Prepare the crumb mixture by mixing together the panko crumbs, lemon zest, rigani, chopped capers and parsley. Place in a shallow bowl and set aside.
2. In another two separate shallow bowls, place the corn flour and the milk. Set aside.
3. Wash the sardines and pat dry with paper towels.
4. Dust each sardine at a time with a little corn flour flour then dip in the milk and then the crumb mixture, making sure they are well coated, by pressing gently into the crumb mixtures. Set aside.
5. When the sardines are all coated in crumbs, heat the olive oil in a large frypan and add the garlic clove. Stir the clove around in the oil and remove when it starts to brown. When the oil is hot, cook the sardines (don't overcrowd the pan) on one side for a few minutes then on the other until golden brown. Drain on kitchen paper. Serve warm with a little sprinkling of sea salt and plenty of lemon wedges on the side - best to let your guests squeeze the lemon as the go, as you don't want the crumb to go soggy.