Monday, March 21, 2011

"Sarde a beccafico", the unique Sicilian sardine rolls

Do you know what "sarde a beccafico" are? And why they have got this strange name? This is a typical Sicilian dish made of fresh sardines filled with our traditional ingredients: breadcrumbs, olive oil, pine nuts and raisins. Beccafico (which is a little bird similar to a warbler or quail, literally means beak figs). These were little birds called so because they liked to beak figs. In  ancient times Sicilian Nobles used to hunt and eat them. They said that their  meat was nice and tender so they were eating them with all the guts.

The poor people having more sardines than birds started to cook them adding some lemon and orange juice to the filling, to mitigate the strong smell and taste of the fish.

Ingredients and preparation for 4 people:
500 gr fresh sardines

200 gr breadcrumbs
5 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon sugar
50 gr raisins
50 gr pine nuts
Juice and zest of one lemon (or if preferred half lemon and half orange)
20-22 bay leaves

Clean the sardines and remove the backbone. In a pan on a low heat, brown the breadcrumbs with 3 tablespoons of olive oil and remove from heat as soon as it gets golden. Add raisins, pine nuts, lemon zest. Add 2 more tablespoons of olive oil, then start filling the sardines, each at a time.

Once you had put the mix roll it up very carefully, because they are extremely delicate and easy to break.Put a leaf of bay to separate each roll and if you prefer stick a small wooden stick on each roll.

Mix the sugar with the lemon juice (or lemon and orange juices) and sprinkle on the fish to moisten and perfume the dish before baking it.

Now bake in a preheated oven (180°C) for about 10-15 minutes. It is a perfect starter or a great side-dish, hot or cold it doesn't matter, you are going to love and enjoy it!!!!


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