The cornerstone of Portuguese coastal lifestyle. The smell of sardines grilling outdoors flavours any recollections of walks trough Bairro Alto in Lisbon, Ribeira in Porto or a small town on the coast of Alentejo.
This is one of those incredibly simple dishes which can very easily go wrong. The two main elements are the sardines themselves and the “assador” the person who grills them. In restaurants specialising in grilled fish this is a specific person, different from the chef.
The traditional season for Sardines in Portugal is July during the religious festivals. Sardines feature in everything from large banquets to fast food stalls where you eat one on a piece of bread while standing and drinking a glass of wine or sangria.
Sardines for grilling need to be absolutely fresh, medium size and pre-salted for at least 30 minutes.
1. Salt the sardines generously with sea salt and keep in the fridge for at least 30 minutes. Sardines for grilling are not gutted. In the meantime get the charcoal going.
2. Place the sardines on a griddle and put on the bbq as low down as possible. Sardines is a fatty fish and as fat drops into the charcoal, unwanted flame appears. Putting the griddle directly on the charcoal avoids this (you need to make sure the charcoal isn’t too hot though). Through water over the charcoal if flames emerge (remove sardines first though!)
3. Grill roughly 5 minutes on each side. Sardines should have a nice char-grilled finish but not be overcooked. You can always try one on a piece of bread as you go!
4. Serve with grilled pepper salad and good bread.