Sardines are an extremely underrated fish. Unless you are Portuguese of course. Or Mediterranean.
The truth however, is that sardines are cheap, tasty, healthy, nutritious and a perfect pantry item.
I will not lecture you about the importance of eating certain kinds of fish for nutritional and environmental reasons. Suffice it to
say write that this recipe is a new winner in my book.
Before you get down to making this, a few fun sardine facts from the web.
The word “sardines” is actually a common name used to describe the immature fish of a variety of species all around the world. So when you are eating a sardine you are actually eating one of many kinds of fish, such as herring, smelts, brislings and pilchards, that get caught in nets during fishing.
Sardines are named after the Italian island of Sardinia, where they were seemingly abundant in past times.
Omega 3 fatty acids, highly present in sardines, reduce the likelihood of Alzheimer's disease, dementia and heart disease and lower blood sugar levels.
Canned sardines are however high in cholesterol, also because of the oil they are preserved in.
If you eat the whole sardine, including the tiny bones, the canned variety also ensures a good calcium intake.
Napoleon greatly helped in spreading the popularity of sardines: tinning the fish was an idea of two Frenchmen, Appert and Colin, but he started the canning industry at the beginning of the 19th century to feed the growing population and military. Sardines perished easily, so canning them was a way to ensure that the inhabitants of the farthest reaches of his Empire had a cheap and plentiful protein source.
Canned sardines have been known to hold up to 30 years.
Have you ever heard of the South African sardine run? Between May and July billions of sardines spawn and then move along the eastern coast of South Africa in shoals, which are often more than 7lms long, 1.5km wide and 30 meters deep and are clearly visible from the surface.
In the early 1900s Maine counted large numbers of canneries, producing up to more than 4 cans per American at that time, but now there is only one sardine plant left.
During the Cold War, sardines were extremely popular in the US. The US government apparently bought great quantities in the bomb-scare years and they became the number one convenience food for Americans. Now the average American does not taste a sardine before the age of 40.
Many expressions have arisen from the sardine canning industry: “packed in like sardines” originated in the 1800s from the practice of close packing this fish, describing any situation where people/things are crowded together. Then there is Alan Benett's "...Life, you know, is rather like opening a tin of sardines. We are all of us looking for the key..."
This is one of those examples of Pinterest actually being useful and not just a huge waste of my free - and not so free - time. I saw this idea ages ago on Food52 and loved it, pinned it and forgot about it. Until now that is.
It is so fast it won't take more than five minutes to make (and for half of that time, it is actually your food processor that is doing all the work). It is quite delicious and much cheaper than pate.
It is creamy yet tangy, and not very fishy at all (if that worries you) and the contrast of this cool, buttery spread on a slice of warm toasted bread will make you swoon. Guaranteed.
Adapted from HalfPint
Ingredients (about 1 cup)
2 cans of sardines in olive oil
4 tbsp butter, softened
2 tbsp lemon juice
2 tsp lemon zest
a pinch of dried chili peppers
a pinch of salt
Put the ingredients into a food processor, including the oil from the canned sardines. Blend until smooth and then taste. Adjust for salt and lemon.
If you have it immediately it will be more of a paste, or it can be used as a dip (Pictures taken before refrigerating). If you refrigerate it the texture will be more similar to pâté. Serve with a crusty loaf or mutli grain bread. It makes a great appetizer or an ideal light meal if served with a green salad dressed with a lemon vinaigrette.