Forgotten are the dark, damp days of investing energy in root vegetables; peeling, chopping and roasting. The plop and bubble of a simmering stew is now a faded memory. Epic, steaming bowls of pasta are not needed to provide extra insulation. That’s a lie – I’m still eating those; pasta binges are necessary all year round. It is perfectly possible for a person to lose their shit without them.
Mostly though it’s about flash-grilling, plenty of herbs, zesty salads, crisp white wines and ice cold beers. Sardines are perfect for slapping on the BBQ. Well, not so much slapping as gently lowering in a fish kettle; their flesh bruises easily and their skin will stick to the grill without protection.
My favourite garnish is a classic one – gremolata. It’s a zippy mix of parsley, garlic and lemon zest which I also use to lighten heavier, winter dishes like beef ragu. Here it contrasts well with the oily fish and really, it couldn’t be simpler.
Sardines with Gremolata
Sardines, heads removed, scaled, gutted and cleaned (3 or 4 per person)
Zest of 1 large lemon
1 handful parsley leaves
2 cloves garlic
For the gremolata, just chop everything very finely and mix together.
For the sardines, there are a few options. Either rub them with oil, season and grill on a hot BBQ (ideally using a fish rack to prevent sticking) for a few minutes each side until cooked through and slightly charred on the outside. If you don’t have a fish kettle then it is perfectly possible to cook them on the BBQ but they will probably break and stick a little.
To cook inside: either oil, season and grill, or pan fry. To do the latter, open your fillets out then smear lightly with oil and dip each one into seasoned flour (both sides) before frying in a couple of tablespoons of oil in a hot pan – skin first. They will need a few minutes each side.