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Sardine alla beccafico

post #1 of 10
Thread Starter 

This is a classic bit of Sicilian cookery.Normally I would grill these over charcoal then at the last minute throw some sticks of the wild fennel plants on the fire.The wild fennel grows upright to maybe 4 foot all tops & fronds very little bulb ,the local Italians  use the tops to hold olives under the water when they are brining ,the sticks for char grilling fish & the fronds to flavour the water for some seafood soups or as stuffing .They also pick dandelion & a few other things in season,So do I.biggrin.gif

I will get some photos happening I will have to bake these its pouring rain.

You gut ,head & backbone the sardines then stuff with a mix of breadcrumbs,raisans ,pine nuts,fennel frond ,orange zest & juice,bit of chopped pancetta ,some finely chopped onion .Roll them up toothpick them.If I could grill they would go on skewers with a bay leaf between each one.

They resemble a little bird called a fig picker which used to be hunted & grilled .

post #2 of 10

Sounds intriguing!  I'm looking forward to seeing the pictures and getting more details. popcorn.gif


These must be pretty big sardines if you can remove the backbones?  I think the ones we normally get in cans still have all of the bones. 


Looking forward to seeing the rest of the post....



post #3 of 10
Thread Starter 

These little guys,also called scaly mackeral or pilchards.These are about 6 -8 '' long about 24 to the kg.Some years they get bigger & fatter.Season is on now.

WhenI have the inclination I make them up to go into jars.Salted,pressed left to sit for a month or so then rinsed dried then under oil with garlic,chilli,preserved lemon.Really labour intensive but hell of a product.

They arent that hard to clean just lots of them when you buy them by the box.I can sometimes get them from the fishing boats at my weekender.Got to be spanking fresh they degrade quickly.


Soaked raisans in a bit of marsala & orange juice,finely chopped pancetta,onion,garlic,fennel fronds fried in EVO then put raisans & soaking liquid & juice of an orange,cbp then breadcrumbs.

post #4 of 10
Thread Starter 

Finicky bit,soft flesh on these fish so you do most of the cleaning with your hands.



Study in concentrationbiggrin.gif


Half a bay leaf on each toothpick,oiled pan into the oven for 20 minutes.

post #5 of 10
Thread Starter 

Thats them done,squeeze of lemon. Left over stuffing will go in a pepper or something.

post #6 of 10

It's me again, boy those look really awesome. They better be as labor intensive as they look to be. So if it were not raining you'd smoke at this point? Like a cold smoke first then finishing low heat?

post #7 of 10
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by Foamheart View Post

It's me again, boy those look really awesome. They better be as labor intensive as they look to be. So if it were not raining you'd smoke at this point? Like a cold smoke first then finishing low heat?

I grill them on the weber then throw the dried fennel stalks on the coals for 5 minutes.Just gives them a little smoky note.Not a dry stick anywhere here now its just bucketing down & going to get worse.

The fennel I am talking about grows as a weed here,near railway lines vacant lots .It dries right off so the twigs will burn & give you a fennel flavour on the fire.The locals combine it with these oily fish a lot. Orange flavours work well.

post #8 of 10
Thread Starter 
This will work with similar fish I am sure,mackerel,herring maybe. I have seen chopped mortadella instead of pancetta you can tinker with the stuffing if you like .Here fennel is in season the same time a sardines & I like that tradition of picking wild greens. I have learnt to pick a few different greens from some of the od ladies in black dresses in my suburb. I would normally skewer about 4 on a metal skewer then do them over charcoal.
post #9 of 10

Like Foamheart said, those do look really labor intensive, but awesome!  How do you tell when they are done cooking?  


I'm envious of the neighborhood where you live. How wonderful to be able to learn traditional recipes and practices from some of the older Sicilian folks.  A great way of keeping some of these cooking traditions alive.


Hope your weather improves soon!


post #10 of 10
Thread Starter 

They dont take long at all,maybe 20 minutes in the oven.Grill you have to right on top of them,its only a few minutes including the instant smoke from fennel twigs..Some locals put the whole fish in a tub with rocksalt,chopped oranges & lemons & bay leaf.Leave in fridge over night then rinse then clean .They firm right up ,from there they eat them fresh or repack the way I learnt layered in salt with weights on top,left for a month or so. I posted it way back.They are just a tasty little fish.

I have paid $40 a box 10 kg ,no paper work off the back of the boat.Great bargain until you start cleaning 250 or so fishbiggrin.gif Very seasonal here,wont be any more until the rain stops .

I will do a little wild greens dish some time soon, this rain should bring them out.I helped an old greek lady once who couldn't get to some greens she wanted,I just jumped the fencebiggrin.gif,got an instant tutorial on what to pick .Its "horta" in greek,for all the wild greens. When you are in Italy you will see people in the country still picking them.

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