- Prep time 15 minutes
- Cook time 10 minutes
- Serves 2
Coating with a beer batter is a classic way to prepare any flaky white-fleshed fish, especially in the United Kingdom. In this recipe, tinned sardines get the same treatment, and the crispy fish make a delicious snack or appetizer. Any leftover harissa, a fiery and smoky pepper sauce with roots in Morocco, can be used with other fried foods, or with roasted vegetables, or drizzled over scrambled eggs. If you can, make the harissa a day ahead of time to give the flavors an opportunity to meld, but it’s delicious day-of, too.
Notes: You can use store-bought roasted peppers from a jar, or roast fresh peppers yourself over an open flame or under a broiler. You want to get them good and blackened all over. Then set them aside to cool. Peel the peppers and discard the skin. Cut the roasted peppers in half and scrape out any seeds. Use the peppers right away or cover in olive oil and store in your refrigerator for up to a week.
Since harissa seasoning blends can have different levels of heat depending on the brand, taste the spice mix and add more or less, depending on how hot you want it. You could also add a pinch of chile flakes. If you like it mild and prefer less kick, add another roasted pepper.
Excerpted from The Magic of Tinned Fish by Chris McDade (Artisan Books). © 2021. —Chris McDade
roasted red peppers (see Author Note)
(60 milliliters) extra-virgin olive oil
red wine vinegar
harissa seasoning (see Author Note)
- Beer-Battered Sardines
Neutral oil, such as grapeseed or canola, for sautéing
1 1/2 cups
(190 grams) all-purpose flour
12-ounce (355 milliliters) bottle lager beer
4.2-ounce (120 grams) tins sardines packed in lemon and oil
Lemon wedges (optional)
- To make the harissa: In a food processor, combine the roasted peppers, olive oil, vinegar, and harissa seasoning and blend until smooth.
- To prepare the sardines: Pour 3 inches of neutral oil into a medium saucepan and warm over medium heat. You’ll know the oil is ready for the fish when a small pinch of flour bubbles immediately once it hits the oil.
- In a large bowl, stir together the flour and cayenne. Add the beer slowly to avoid too much foam. Using a fork, gently stir the mixture. A few clumps are okay; overmixing is not.
- Place the sardines in the batter and carefully toss with a spoon to coat. Once you check the temperature of the oil and deem it good to go, lift the sardines one at a time from the batter, allowing excess batter to drip back into the bowl. Do this one by one until you have 6 to 8 sardines in the oil, depending on the size of your pan.
- Fry the sardines until golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes. Take care not to overcrowd the pan, as this will drop the temperature of the oil and you’ll end up with soggy, greasy fish. Once the fish are cooked, use a slotted spoon to transfer them to a plate lined with paper towels. Season with a bit of salt. Repeat this process until all the sardines are fried.
- Divide the sardines between two plates and serve with a dollop of the harissa sauce and a wedge of lemon, if you’d like.