little fish

bbq sardines with charred radicchio currants & pinenuts

When it comes to food from the sea I’m a massive fan. Freshly shucked briny oysters, soft shell crab, chunky tuna streaks, delicate king george whiting, baby octopus… I love it all. But I do have a special fondness for small fish served whole. There’s nothing better than tucking into a bowl of crunchy whitebait with a crisp glass of riesling to get the taste buds going.

Sardines are my other great love. Tinned or fresh I love their intensely flavoured oily flesh which is just bursting with omega three goodness. Fresh whole sardines are one of the real bargains at the fishmongers. While you can be lucky enough to find sardine fillets these are a lot more expensive and they just don’t look as pretty on a plate as a couple of whole ones.

The only downside to the whole sardine thing is that it’s difficult to find a fishmonger who will be generous enough to gut the little fellas for you. But after you get over the initial squeamishness of handling fish guts it really is worth the effort….trust me…. you just need to get a sharp knife and slit the fish along the base of the belly then use your thumbs to scrape out the bits that need to go.. Then a good rinse and a pat dry and your sardines are ready to cook.

Sardines are popular in the Mediterranean and are often paired with toasted pinenuts and sweet currants. So I was thinking along this vibe the other day when I was at my local fish shop looking for something quick to cook for dinner. I also happened to have some radicchio in the fridge which I planned to char and wilt on the BBQ as per my new favourite salad, to serve as a bed for my two little fish…a deliciously bitter contrast to the richness of the oily fish….all good things….

bbq sardines with charred radicchio currants & pinenuts
serves 2

The inspiration to BBQ the whole sardines came from a memorable meal of BBQ garfish that I recently enjoyed at the new tiny wine bar in Surry Hills: Vini.

4 large whole sardine (or 6 small ones), cleaned
1 head radicchio, washed and leaves separated
4T red wine vinegar
8T extra virgin olive oil (evoo)
2T currants
2T pinenuts, lightly toasted
6 sprigs continental parsley, leaves picked
1t sumac, optional
lemon cheeks, to serve

First turn on your BBQ or a griddle pan to get nice and hot. Then make the dressing by combining currants, vinegar, evoo, sumac and season with s&p.

Char the radicchio leaves on the BBQ, you may need to do this in batches. It takes about 15seconds each side. You just want them to start to wilt and get a little charry. Remove leaves from the BBQ and toss in the dressing. Allow to stand while you cook the fish.

Season fish with s&p and turn BBQ down to med high and BBQ sardines until lightly charred and cooked through about 4mins each side.

To serve, toss parsley through radicchio and divide between two plates. Top with fish and sprinkle with pinenuts. Serve with lemon cheeks on the side.


  • Hi Julie
    Would you like a job at the chefs toolbox I could do with some innovative help? Just joking but I think your recipes are looking great and I’m very impressed that you are using “out there” ingredients.
    happy coooking chris

  • hey chris,
    thanks for dropping by…always open to job offers….especially if they involve staff discount on cookwear

  • Hi, I’ve recently returned from Spain and has some little fish in a bar which they served free, and I think they were called bougerane or something like that. Have you heard of them? Joy

  • hey joy,
    no I haven’t heard of them but if they were in a bar in spain they sound pretty good…

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