HOME > Chowhound > Home Cooking >
Are you making a specialty food? Share your adventure
TELL US

Sardines

Soop Jun 28, 2012 02:32 AM

Hey guys :3

So I went to the canned fish part of my supermarket, and I bought a few cans of tuna, mackerel and sardines, the latter two being quite cheap. However, I've pretty much come to the conclusion that I'm not fond of sardines.

I find them slightly bitter, and their texture isn't very pleasant IMO. I had one can in a pasta dish with some tomato sauce and onion and celery, but I find the mackerel much better in this situation. The second time, I had it (fork mashed) on toast, and I managed to choke it down, but the texture (bones?) and the sight of what looked like roe were very off-putting.

Any sardine fans have recipes to redeem them? Or have I pretty much hit the nail on the head?

  1. p
    pj26 Jun 28, 2012 03:40 AM

    Have you tried fresh sardines?

    They are delicious butterflied and grilled on the BBQ or pan fried with some herbs, or harrissa. Also cheap and very good for you.

    2 Replies
    1. re: pj26
      Soop Jun 28, 2012 03:45 AM

      I haven't actually, that does sound good. I love mackerel done the same way. One of my favorite ways to eat (smoked) mackerel is on top of toasted rye, covered with a horseradish/creme fraich mix, salted + rinsed cucumber slices, and red onion.

      It would be quite good to get some ideas for canned sardines though, canned fish is wonderful to have in the store cupboard

      1. re: pj26
        Crockett67 Jul 2, 2012 11:07 AM

        +1 but salt + pepper, olive oil, and lemon juice for me.

      2. f
        flashria Jun 28, 2012 04:04 AM

        I love tinned sardines although I don't disagree with you that the appearance isn't the best thing about them! I often have them just as you say, fork-mashed on toast, but find that a sliced raw tomato on top turns it into something really yummy - and also hides the fish itself which you may think a good thing! On a similar note, as a more substantial meal I would suggest lightly toasting some crusty bread like a split panini (sp - panino?), spreading with pesto, mashing sardines on top, then covering with tomato slices and grated cheese which you then grill until melted. Really tasty!

        Tinned sardines also make a great pate when mashed up with some butter, some cream cheese, the juice of a lemon and a spoonful of mustard. As you say, useful storecupboard ingredients....looks aren't everything!

        2 Replies
        1. re: flashria
          Soop Jun 28, 2012 04:34 AM

          It's not the appearance (apart from the roe, bleagh!) as much as the texture... But your pate idea may actually help the appearance, texture AND the bitterness I get. I think I'll buy at least one more can ;)

          1. re: flashria
            maabso Jul 16, 2012 08:22 AM

            flashira- just made this as per your suggestion with pesto etc.... YUMMMM... I'm eating it as I type and loving every bite! :D Thanks!

          2. porker Jun 28, 2012 04:18 AM

            I don't have a recipe for canned sardines; I usually just eat them out of the can. It seems people either like them or they don't - not much middle ground, so at the end of the day, you may decide you're in the second camp... I like your attempt at trying: many people simply say "I don't like them" without even tasting.

            Not all canned sardines are created equally. You may have to try different brands and styles (plain in oil (olive, vegetable, or other) or water, in tomato sauce, in sauce with chili, in lemon, etc) to get one you like. For an interesting look at different kinds, maybe have a look here http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/301739

            For recipes, maybe here http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/774768

            I agree with pj26 that you should at least try "fresh" sardines. They're totally different than canned (again, some people like fresh and not canned and vice-versa). Fresh is usually very difficult to find, but frozen in a 2lb bag is quite common. Just defrost and cook whole. Mrs Porker banned the cooking of sardines in the house after the very first time (the odor is quite powerful). I grill them over charcoal and they're very tasty.

            10 Replies
            1. re: porker
              Soop Jun 28, 2012 04:38 AM

              Wow, I read that whole first post of the Sardine review. It loks like I might try a different brand if I come across them (I'm not likely to spend much, or seek them out), but I am intrigued by the fact that some of them taste like tuna. I got a fishier, bitter taste from mine, which were portugese in sunflower oil http://images.mysupermarket.co.uk/Pro...

              But they were 59p which is about $1, and at the cheap end of the scale. They were quite big though. Wonder if there's a correlation between size and taste? Maybe the texture of smaller ones would be more acceptable?

              Is there a "default" flavour? The review you posted mentioned some of them were bitter, but not all.

              1. re: Soop
                hotoynoodle Jun 28, 2012 06:34 AM

                it was quite likely that the oil was rancid and that's where the bitter flavor comes from. unless you can get pricier sardines packed in olive oil, just buy the ones packed in water. those junk seed oils are terrible and everywhere.

                i like sardines mashed with some mustard and butter and some radish on top is too.

                celery itself can be very bitter, so i don't like to mix it with anything that isn't naturally on the sweeter side -- like canned salmon.

                1. re: Soop
                  porker Jun 28, 2012 08:29 AM

                  I get bitter sardines once in a while (both "fresh" and tinned) - I don't think think its a function of the oil.
                  I'm guessing smaller sardines are more sought-after (the Millionaires Sardines say "Fish she very small" on the packaging), but like you, I don't care to spend more on sardines.

                  However, I'm told that some tins of "sardines" aren't sardines at all. Any smallish, oily, tinned fish might be called "sardine" (even the tail of some other type of fish can be tinned as "sardine") - so again, it might be be best to try different brands until you find the one you like.

                  I assume the UK is similar to Canada: mainstream grocery stores generally carry mainstream brands. In my neck of the woods, Italian or Caribbean or Greek or Slavic or Chinese (or, or, or) groceries carry a much greater variety of canned sardines and usually cheaper to boot. Maybe give these a try?

                  1. re: porker
                    Soop Jun 28, 2012 09:20 AM

                    Ok, that's a plan; there are a few Polish grocery stores I've been looking for an excuse to visit.

                    Over here, we also have pilchards, which I believe is just a Cornish term for sardines, and I've found some skinless boneless pilchards.

                    1. re: Soop
                      porker Jun 28, 2012 10:53 AM

                      I don't think its just a Cornish name - ifn you have a gander at wiki
                      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sardines
                      sardines are simply small pilchards. Not only that, but 21 different species of fish can be called sardines...

                      We were in Belize a coupla years ago and I was going out to fish on the reef. We stayed inshore a bit while the guide chased schools of "sardines" in the shallows, throwing a hand-net, catching bait.
                      I took a few sardines out of the bait-pail during our shore-lunch, cleaned, and grilled them. The guide thought I was nuts for eating "bait", apparently something only a starving person *might* do.

                  2. re: Soop
                    j
                    JudiAU Jun 30, 2012 07:50 AM

                    Whatever you by, buy ones tinned in olive oil which will be much higher in quality.The nasty other oils do not help the flavor.

                    I like the better quality ones simply prepared on a little buttered wholemeal toast with a squeeze of lemon and a little raw onion.

                  3. re: porker
                    p
                    pj26 Jun 28, 2012 08:29 AM

                    Fresh are very easy to find in the UK! Cheap too.

                    1. re: pj26
                      porker Jun 28, 2012 08:49 AM

                      Some fishmongers in Montreal will occasionally have fresh which was flown in from Greece, but they're expensive. Having tried these, I don't see the benefit of the added cost over frozen. Some places simply sell defrosted, but don't necessarily advertise them as "fresh".

                      1. re: pj26
                        Soop Jun 28, 2012 09:22 AM

                        I've not really been looking, but my small local sainsburys doesn't have them fresh. The big one might though.

                        Unfortunately, I don't live close to a proper fishmonger, I think the nearest one is about 5 miles away. Sometimes I quite fancy a lobster with hot butter.

                        1. re: Soop
                          p
                          pj26 Jun 28, 2012 01:32 PM

                          I buy my sardines from a fairly large Sainsburys - they now and then have them in the smaller Local branch. They definitely have them in Waitrose (at least the few I have been to in London).

                    2. s
                      scarsdalesurprise Jun 28, 2012 04:24 AM

                      Try the skinless boneless - I like them MUCH better. I put them in salads along with the oil they are packed in.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: scarsdalesurprise
                        Soop Jun 28, 2012 04:39 AM

                        I've never seen them, but yes, that would be way better. Do they still come whole?

                        *edit* wow, reading the reviews for these ones they seem really great http://www.amazon.com/Crown-Prince-Sk...

                        I think I have to try this if I can find some in the UK.

                      2. JungMann Jun 28, 2012 06:52 AM

                        I love sardines. Fresh is ideal, but a good canned variety can be very good eating. If they are in tomato sauce, I will almost invariably cook them by caramelizing onions, garlic and tomato in olive oil along with a bay leaf and chili for good measure. Toss in your sardines, heat through. Finish with lemon zest and black pepper and serve with warm bread. There are many permutations on this base recipe incorporating olives, capers, herbs, or even cheese if you are so inclined.

                        Sardines in olive or soybean oil are more versatile. They have a mild flavor and once drained, they can be mashed with mayonnaise, horseradish cream, avocado or any other creamy base and then spread on bread for a sandwich. I'm of the opinion that the richness should be offset with pickled onions, gherkins, lemon juice or really anything sharp. Cucumbers are also good with sardine sandwiches.

                        If you want to eat the sardines hot, I'd again start by caramelizing onions and a little bit of garlic in a generous amount of olive oil, adding bay leaf, peppercorns, a pinch of thyme and/or some rosemary, dried chili and a clove before long. Add white wine vinegar or sherry vinegar and let simmer for a couple minutes. Pour over your sardines and let sit for 30 minutes. Serve warm or cold with crusty bread, garnished with parsley.

                        More ideas here: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/458828

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: JungMann
                          Soop Jun 28, 2012 08:06 AM

                          Nice, thanks Jung, and good to see you again!

                          I like that creamy mashed idea.

                          1. re: JungMann
                            jpr54_1 Jun 28, 2012 09:21 AM

                            sounds delicious-
                            i have some sardines on shelf and will make them with your suggestions
                            did use skinless or with bones/

                            1. re: jpr54_1
                              JungMann Jun 28, 2012 09:40 AM

                              I don't mind the skin and bones, so I've never bothered. The latter recipe, though, I think would be better with the boneless variety. Were I making it with fresh sardines, they would definitely be boned out (as well as floured and fried).

                          2. j
                            joonjoon Jun 29, 2012 11:30 AM

                            Soop, what brand sardines did you get? If you're not into the funk of "normal" sardines, you might want to try Season boneless skinless sardines. It's very close to tuna in terms of taste/texture.

                            1. ipsedixit Jun 30, 2012 08:48 AM

                              Make a sandwich.

                              Some varieties I like:

                              -Rye bread, avocado, tomatoes and sardines, with horseradish mustard
                              -Rye bread, caramelized onions, romaine or bibb lettuc, and sardine
                              -Baguette, Sriracha, pickles, and avocados

                              And this is something probably only I like: Texas Toast, peanut butter and sardine sandwich.

                              4 Replies
                              1. re: ipsedixit
                                porker Jun 30, 2012 09:01 AM

                                "Texas Toast, peanut butter and sardine sandwich."
                                What, no onion?

                                1. re: porker
                                  ipsedixit Jun 30, 2012 09:04 AM

                                  Onion? Gross!

                                  :-)

                                  1. re: ipsedixit
                                    Soop Jul 2, 2012 03:04 AM

                                    So avacado really goes huh? Looks like horseradish does too. Thanks for the tip, I'll bear that in mind. I think having them pretty much on their own may have been a bit too much.

                                    1. re: Soop
                                      ipsedixit Jul 2, 2012 07:46 PM

                                      I love horseradish and avocado on my sardine sandwiches. Good eating.

                              2. Soop Jul 2, 2012 03:07 AM

                                Ok, just as an update me and Donna did a Big Shop in the big Asda near us. Around the canned fish area, I picked up:
                                2 cans of boneless sardines in olive oil
                                a can of kipper fillets
                                A can of skippers

                                I have NO idea what skippers are, but they were cheap. And I also thought kippers were smoked herring or something. Maybe they were smoked and canned.

                                *edit*, well that's what skippers are: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/European_sprat

                                And a review of them here: http://www.dooyoo.co.uk/food/john-wes...

                                They sound quite nice actually.

                                1. Crockett67 Jul 2, 2012 11:10 AM

                                  As mentioned, I like good tinned sardines mashed up with the oil then tossed with pasta with parmesan, salt + pepper, little butter, and bread crumbs.

                                  But I do like them also mashed on toasted crusty bread as well.

                                  1. Soop Jul 9, 2012 03:19 AM

                                    Just an update here; everyone who said boneless and olive oil was totally right. I think I got less sardine from my can, but the taste was much less bitter, and the texture was great.

                                    I had them on wholegrain bread just on their own, but I thought it was lacking punch, so I melted cheese over the second one, and it was delicious.

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: Soop
                                      j
                                      joonjoon Jul 9, 2012 02:53 PM

                                      Try 'em on an everything bagel with cream cheese, onion, tomato, and some capers. Maybe scallion. Yum yum.

                                      1. re: joonjoon
                                        Crockett67 Jul 9, 2012 06:48 PM

                                        +1!!

                                        And Soop, glad to hear it worked out this time.

                                    2. o
                                      Ophis Aug 24, 2012 05:00 PM

                                      What brand of sardines' did you get? I've had some anything put pleasant cans as well. I'm not a fan of the roe. I like the season brand on toast. I ran across a sardine blog last month; it has helped me in picking new cans. But I keep going back to the season brand. mouth full of sardines is the name of it.

                                      here it is http://mouth-full-of-sardines.blogspo...

                                      Show Hidden Posts