One of the most beloved Greek mezedes is marinated anchovies, made with incredibly fresh - preferably straight off the boat anchovies. Next to the anchovy, the other beloved Greek fish is the sardine. For whatever the reason, fresh anchovies are not all that easy to get your hands on in Sydney - but fresh sardines are! So, I have adapted this recipe (which is usually used for anchovies) for the incredibly fresh sardines I bought from the wonderful Oceana Traders at my local market this weekend.
Sometimes described as 'pickling', preserving anchovies and sardines in this way has it roots in Ancient Greece. This was a food stuff to be put away to survive long winters and when the weather was to rough for fishermen to leave the shelter of the port. It also, no doubt, has it roots in the Greek kitchen mantra of not wasting or throwing out a single piece of food - and pickling is a great way to make sure every bit of a big catch is used up.
In Greece, this dish is most often served as a part of an offering of mezedes before lunch or in the early evening. It is one of the nicest ways to enjoy the delicate flesh of fresh sardines - marinated in lemon juice, a good slosh of Greek red wine vinegar, olive oil and finely chopped garlic, parsley and chilli. The acid in the lemon and vinegar literally cooks the fish, turning it opaque and almost sweet tasting.
To serve, after the fish has marinated overnight, you pour over quite a bit more good extra virgin olive oil, sprinkle over some more finely chopped parsley and maybe a little extra chilli - if you are so inclined. While they make a great meze on their own with a chilled glass of ouzo, I think they also make (along with a citrusy salad or some olives and spring crudités of broad beans, radishes, fennel and new season potatoes) for a fantastically simple spring lunch. They are best enjoyed by laying the fillets onto some crusty wood-fire bread that has been rubbed with garlic, mopping up the delicious aromatic oil as you go.
Marinated sardines (σαρδέλες Μαρινάτος)
About 12 fresh sardines, cleaned
2 tbsp Greek red wine vinegar
The juice of two large lemons
1/2 cup of extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely chopped
2 tbsp finely chopped parsley
2-3 small red chillies, finely sliced
1. Mix the vinegar, lemon juice, 1/2 of the olive oil, 1 tablespoon of the parsley, half the sliced chili and garlic.
2. In a ceramic (non reactive) dish, large enough to accommodate the sardine fillets in a single layer, arrange the sardines, lying them flat and skin side up, the pour over the marinade.
3. Cover the dish with clingfilm, place in the fridge and allow it to sit at least overnight.
4. To serve, bring the dish to room temperature and sprinkle over the remaining parsley, chilli and olive oil. Serve with crusty grilled or wood-fire bread that has been rubbed generously with garlic.