A fishy little festival

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FRESH SARDINES: Make delicious dishes.

THIS week was The Little Geranium’s birthday, we are now three years old!

It’s been a good week to celebrate as Tuesday (May 1) was a fiesta, the sardine festival and La Cala was heaving with approximately 5,000 people from all over the coast, celebrating our birthday! Lol.

Every year on May 1 sardines are skewered on pieces of bamboo and cooked over a fire in the sand (espetos).

These are a delicacy and people will line up to get theirs. It is recommended to have a minimum of 10 espetos each!

You eat them by picking off the flaking meat with your fingers, then discarding the head and the bones.

Note that the sardines are cooked whole, so avoid eating the inners. Thousands of people come to La Cala to enjoy this festival.

Various performances were also held on the stages throughout the night, to keep the party going so the perfect day to celebrate our third year here in La Cala along with so many different nationalities who came from far and wide.

I remember when I first arrived here, I thought that all the fiestas they have seem odd, like any excuse for a day off!

But as time has gone on I notice that the communities all know each other well and that their bond is hugely aided by their fiestas because we all come out to celebrate and meet up and chat and party!

I lived in a small village in the UK and apart from the odd wave at Christmas, the neighbouring houses didn’t take any interest in each other, when I left I don’t suppose anyone even noticed!

Sardines are one of the national Spanish treasures. Most beachside restaurants have the little boat outside where they cook the sardines over charcoal.

Delicious as they are like that, being a creative chef it would be impossible for me to follow suit so I look for new ways of serving them.

On the menu at lunchtime I take them off the bone, fill them with chopped garlic, parsley, cumin and lemon then fry them until crispy on the outside and serve them on home-made toasted brioche with a spicy tomato salsa.

In the evenings I have to be more creative still and so I make a sardine mousse made with shavings of summer truffle, truffle oil garnished with pickled mushrooms and home-made walnut toast.

I often serve that as an amuse (a pre- starter from the chef).

It’s a nice way of saying welcome to La Cala as the sardines are from the village.

This week I’ve included that recipe and also a recipe for an easy to make sardine ceviche which is delicious.

Enjoy sardine week!

Sardine and truffle mousse (makes about 10/12 mousses)

Ingredients:

500g of freshest sardines cleaned and scaled

1 tablespoon of Maldon salt

250ml of thick cream

300g of button mushrooms washed and sliced

4 cloves of garlic blanched (cooked) in olive oil until tender/soft

Juice of 2 lemons

Shavings off 1 small summer truffle or 1 small jar of truffle pieces (available from Mercadona)

A little truffle oil to finish Seasoning to finish

Method

• Griddle or grill the cleaned sardines sprinkled with maldon salt until cooked (3-4 minutes approx)

• Now remove all the cooked flesh away from the bones so that you have a bowl of boneless sardine meat

• Fry the mushrooms until tender in a little olive oil and season well

• Blend the sardines and mushrooms in a food processor until smooth and add the juice of the lemons and the garlic

• Add the cream slowly and blend in

• Now add the truffle shavings or pieces of truffle

• Taste and then season if necessary with Maldon salt and white ground pepper

• Chill for at least four hours before using

• Quenelle to serve on a small plate with a drizzle of truffle oil on top of each mousse and toasted walnut bread on the side

Ceviche of sardines with foie gras (optional) & blood orange

Ingredients (makes about 6)

500g fresh sardines

2 whole red jalapeños, seeds removed

250 ml olive oil

1 bunch coriander (leaves picked and chopped)

1 lemon, juiced

2 limes, juiced

1 garlic clove, (cooked until soft in olive oil)

Maldon salt

1 teaspoon of icing sugar

1 blood orange (or 1 mandarin)

Fresh foie gras (6 small pieces)

Micro cresses to serve

Few pickled chillies, to serve

Method

• Grill or griddle the sardines whole until cooked

• Remove all the meat from the sardines away from the bones

• Make the marinade by mixing the lemon and lime juice together with the chopped coriander, olive oil, chopped cooked garlic and chopped jalapeno and add a pinch of icing sugar

• Pour the marinade over the cooked sardines and mix together well

• Press the mix into 6cm diameter rings to get it shaped but also to remove some of the juices (we want the flavor but not too much liquid). Keep chilled in fridge

• Flash sear the foie gras in a hot pan with no oil, cook both sides, season well (Optional stage)

• To serve add the segments of blood orange on top of each ceviche and a piece of cooked foie

• Garnish with a sprinkle of finely chopped pickled chillies on top and arrange the micro cress on top and æserve

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