Saturday, January 12, 2008

Sardines and Onions

It was in Venice that a mixed seafood hors d'oeuvre contained the following combination. And excellent it is as a dish on its own as an hors d’oeuvre or light main course. And it is one of the nicest ways of serving canned sardines. Later experiments (see below) were also a great success.
With onion and a can of sardines often at hand, this start to a meal is an ideal choice when you are not sure what to have. And it is cheap, simple, and quick to prepare as well.


You will need:
Olive oil
Pepper and salt
Canned sardines

Fry finely chopped onions in plenty of olive oil. Add pepper, salt and just a little vinegar. Put a lid on the pan. When the onions are transparent, cooked, and not yet turning brown, take off the lid and allow any vapour to escape. They are ready. Allow them to become cold.
Serve canned sardines on top of the onions, arranging the decoration of the dish as artistically as you are able. A sprinkling of paprika over all looks nice, as does chopped parsley. A few olives enhance the look of these “fish on an onion sea”.
An alternative way of presenting the canned sardines is to mash them up with chilli sauce. Put a pile of this mixture on top of the onion.
As a test experiment I once added a teaspoon of curry powder to the oil and onion before cooking it. So successful was the result that we now often eat the dish in this form, with whole, canned sardines lying on the pile of curried onion. Now I add the curry powder just before the onions have cooked through.
Once, when I wanted to make this dish and found that I was out of sardines, I used crumbled tuna instead. This turned out to be inspired chance.
Another such fortuitous move was to add the juice of half a lime to the cold onion. The result was sensational.
To make a more substantial dish, you can add potato to the onion, but put a lid on the pan and cook the mixture slowly until the potato is soft.
A pinch of chilli powder or a shake or two of Tabasco added to the onion before cooking it adds a little kick to the overall taste.
I have noticed that when a can of sardines has just been opened, the smell may be on the strong and unpleasant side. So open the can and allow the sardines to “breathe” some time before they are wanted. Then all will be well.
This dish is an absolute winner.