Before I even begin writing this recipe, I would like to state that this is a zero-tolerance zone for sardine slander. Sardines are a delicious and cost-effective source of protein and, to be frank, Durban would scarcely be on the map if it weren't for this small epipelagic fish.
Fin fact: I thought the sardine run was an annual racing event like the Comrades. I like to think that the sardines regard one another as comrades.
If you've got strong feelings about fish on toast, get out of here. You can get your omega-3 fatty acids in a gel capsule like a boring normie. The rest of us will be enjoying this fabulous meal inspired by one of my favourite local Cape Town cafes, Arthur's Mini Super.
If you are still reading, then you clearly have refined tastes and an adventurous palette. Congratulations! To reward this admirable strength of character, I am including a second, secret recipe. It's my No-Waste Chilli Paste recipe. My friend Jen shared this recipe with me. Thank you, Jen! You are the best.
What you'll need for the No-Waste Chilli Paste
A whole lemon
A head of garlic
A handful of chillis
You can also add a thumb of fresh ginger to this if you like.
By the way, have you noticed my new Vadoek Cloth from local brand Mungo? I bought it to use as a backdrop for the recipes! I can't get enough of it.
How to make No-Waste Chilli Paste
This could not be simpler. You put everything in the blender and blend it. You don't have to prep anything.
Well. Ideally, you would remove the seeds from your lemon because they're awfully bitter. But you put the lemon in, skin, pith, and all, along with whole chillis and garlic cloves. Personally, I like to break open the garlic head and remove the hard heel from each clove, but I don't peel them. Everything can go in the blender!
How much oil you add depends on the consistency that you prefer. I like a chunky paste, so I don't add more than two tablespoons of oil for a single lemon, half a head of garlic, and a handful of chillis.
I blend mine until it looks like this. Stir the salt through after blending so that you can taste it! This paste keeps for ages in the fridge. Just store it in a sterilised glass jar (wash with hot, soapy water), and you should be good to go for a few weeks - if you can resist finishing it for that long! Put it on top of anything from pizza to scrambled eggs. You're welcome.
Okay, back to our regularly scheduled programming.
What you'll need for Spicy Sardine Toast
A loaf of ciabatta
A tin of sardines in oil
Red onion (optional)
A lemon wedge - save one from the No-Waste Chilli Paste recipe
The Tabasco is pictured here because I was going to use it until I got the idea to make a batch of No-Waste Chili Paste! But you can totally add it to the mix if you like.
How to make it
Step One: Prep your kak
Okidokes, folks. Regular readers of The Weekender will know that I permanently have a loaf of stale ciabatta in my bread bin and I'm always looking for ways to use it up. A moment of silence for my efforts to do so in the Budget Bread Pizza recipe.
Moment over. I had a loaf of stale (not mouldy) ciabatta, so I decided to make crostini out of it. Crostini is just very crunchy toast made in the oven. So, preheat the grill!
You may also wish to spend your prep time making No-Waste Chilli, slicing the ciabatta, thinly slicing your red onion, and removing the spines from your sardine fillets. You can do that last bit while the crostini are toasting up in the oven.
Step Two: Become the boss-tini of your crostini
For your crostini (which are dead easy to make and look very fancy at a dinner with friends, FYI), all you need to do is put your ciabatta slices on a baking pan and drizzle them with ollie oil on both sides. You can brush them with a silicone brush if you have one. I do not, so I sort of lubed them up like a masseuse using my hands.
Then you pop them under the hot grill and let them toast up for 15ish minutes, or until they're golden and brown around the edges. Black is bad and pale is soggy. Be wary of over-oiling them, because this can make them soggy as well.
Bada bing, bada boom - perfect crostini!
Step Three: Pilfer those pilchards and cook 'em in a pan
If you like a bit of heat (I'm assuming you do, considering that you're reading this recipe), thinly slice some chillis and throw them in a pan with a touch of oil. Cook on medium heat. When those have heated through, chuck in your drained and de-boned sardine fillets. You're just cooking these to heat them through, really. Don't be afraid to mash them up a bit - they're going on toast, after all.
I also like to add about a teaspoon of the No-Waste Chilli Paste (that name never gets old) to the pan. When the fish is hot, finish with a generous squeeze of lemon juice.
Step Four: Assemble!
Set up an assembly line. First, spread some No-Waste Chilli Paste on your crostini. Then, slap some spicy sardines on that toasty crostini. Finish with a final squeeze of lemon, some red onion slices, and a fat pinch of flaky salt.
I love this meal so much. The smoky, oily fish fillets are so well complemented by the bright, acidic accents of the fresh lemon, chilli, and onion. This heavenly mixture is just perfect on a bed of crunchy crostini. Call me a heathen, but I'd eat this for breakfast any day.