These Venetian marinated sardines have been on my must-cook list since I read Patience Gray's Honey from a Weed. They're that sweet/sour taste which I love, and which is so typical of Venice, and of Sicily.
It's often difficult to get sardines here, and when they're available, they're usually pretty pricey. So I was cheered to find that Venetians used to make this dish with all sorts of fish - a fine fat sole if they were rich - and that it's only relatively recently that the dish has become something you always make with sardines.
Which is why mine - you've probably spotted - were made with mackerel fillets. Cheap anyway, and then on special offer. This method preserves the fish short-term, so that it will last for a week or so in the fridge. Needs to be made at least 24 hours ahead. Suits me - it meant there was something to eat when we got back from the cinema last night after seeing the electrifying Karita Mattila sing Salome on the Met relay.
Marinated oily fish
sardines / mackerel / whatever's available
red wine vinegar
some pine kernels
a piece of candied lemon peel, if you have it*
Dredge the fish in flour, and fry until browned. Lay in a flattish dish.
Slice the onions (say, two large ones to a kilo of fish) into rounds, then fry gently in the oil remaining in the pan. When they are transparent, add pine kernels (I dry roasted mine), sultanas (I soaked mine in a little hot water, as they were a little dry), chopped peel. Pour in wine vinegar - PG says to use half a litre for a kilo of fish, but after consulting other recipes, I used a wineglass-full. Bubble this for a minute or two, then pour it over the fish. The heat of the vinegar is key to the keeping qualities of the fish.
Leave them to marinade for at least a day, turning them from time to time if you think of it.
*Patience Gray says the candied lemon peel is essential; I'm not so sure, but I happened to have some, and it certainly gives the dish an extra something.
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