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Sardines

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?

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  1. 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

      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

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

      2. 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

          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

            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. 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

              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

                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

                  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

                    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

                      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

                    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

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

                    1. re: pj26

                      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

                        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

                          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. 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

                        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. 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

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

                          I like that creamy mashed idea.

                          1. re: JungMann

                            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

                              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).