Our local farmers’ market rotates through four towns in the Macedon region. Two locations are handy to home, one is farther but in such a pretty location that it makes the trip worth it, and the other is just that bit too far to justify ploughing the freeway for. Which leaves one weekend per month where my pantry is the sole source of my Saturday lunch.
A pantry stocked with a variety of tinned goods, paired with a fridge of brighteners like capers and fresh herbs, will always provide an honest meal. Tinned sardines is one of my favourite store cupboard staples. This under-utilised, oily fish is rich in omega-3s which means it’s great for you and can be gussied up to taste delicious, even if you’re not a fan of strong fish flavours.
Sardines on toast is classic British comfort food that could be relegated to sad, grey Sunday nights in front of the telly. But when paired with a lively pickle and fresh salad, it is anything but somber.
To ensure the meal is a happy one, and to address the concerns of the fishy-taste haters, a quick pickle is made to liven things up. Red onion is cooked until soft and mixed with sugar, vinegar, capers and parsley to produce a sweet but bright topping that cuts through the richness of the fish.
Make sure to use a sturdy sourdough that has the wherewithal to soak up the juices of the oily fish and pickle brine. A generous smear of mustard will ground the meal, helping to balance the flavours and a little greenery that has been dressed in olive oil and lemon juice will add lightness.
It’s a texture and flavour carnival that is the prettiest tinned sardines on toast I’ve ever seen, and the perfect Saturday lunch.
Fancy Tinned Sardines on Toast
- 2 tins of sardines (preferably a brand that supports sustainable fishing)
- 4 slices sourdough bread
- A handful of rocket (arugula)
- Olive oil
- Salt and pepper
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 red onion, sliced
- 1 tablespoon caster (superfine) sugar
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon capers, drained
- 1 heaped tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped
To make the quick pickle, heat the oil in a medium saucepan. Add the onion and cook over a medium heat for 4-5 minutes, until it is soft but not browned. Stir in the sugar, vinegar and capers and cook for a few seconds more, stirring constantly. Remove from the heat and stir in parsley. Let cool a little while you prepare the toast.
Turn on your griller (broiler) and lightly toast your bread (I do this part in the toaster while the griller is heating up). Spread your toast with butter and a generous portion of mustard. Evenly lay the sardine fillets over each slice and place the toast under the grill until the sardines are warmed through and a little charred (about 2 minutes).
Toss your rocket (arugula) in some lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper to lightly dress the leaves.
Remove the toast from the grill and lay the pickle on top of each slice then crown with the salad leaves. Serve warm.
Adapted from The Hairy Bikers (BBC)