Sicilian cuisine is one of the most famous in Italy; it’s really difficult to eat badly in Sicily. In fact, if it happens, it means that you were very unlucky. In our cooking courses we like to prepare authentic and traditional dishes, following the original recipes of our mothers, the unsurpassed teachers, from whom we have all learned to eat well.
Today we present one of the dishes that have been most successful during our courses: Sarde a Beccafico. A Sicilian recipe that contains the colours, smells, and flavours typical of the island’s tradition.
The beccafico is a small particularly melodious songbird, a warbler of the genus Sylvia (click here if you wish to listen to its song), eaten stuffed as a delicacy by the noble families after hunting it. It was one of the many delicacies that the French cooks used to prepare for their lords.
The lower class, unable to afford such luxuries, but always ready to imitate the lords, replaced the birds with the more humble sardines, giving them the same appearance of the most “noble” dish.
The sardines were wrapped in bay leaves and stuffed with a mix of breadcrumbs, pine nuts, currants, sugar and finally covered with orange juice or lemon (in the Palermo version – there are also versions from Catania and Messina that are a bit different). The union of these mixed flavours gives life to a decidedly delicious dish.
Here below you will find our sarde a beccafico recipe. We prefer not to use sugar; you can replace it with honey if you prefer.
INGREDIENTS FOR 4 PEOPLE
- 1/2 kg of already cleaned sardines
- 100 gr of breadcrumbs
- 50 gr of Corinth raisins
- 40 gr of Pine nuts
- 1 small onion
- Extra virgin olive oil
- 1 Orange
- 1 tuft of parsley
- Salt, pepper and bay leaves
1. Start by cleaning the sardines (we recommend buying them already clean and ready to use). Rinse off the scales, discard the heads and guts and open them as a book. Carefully pull out the central bone from the head. Rinse the sardines under cold water.
2. Wash the currents and leave them for about ten minutes in cold water. Now prepare the filling. Chop the onions finely and brown in a pan with the oil, pour in the breadcrumbs and let toast for a few minutes, being careful not to burn it.
Turn off the heat and wet the breadcrumbs with more oil, add the chopped parsley, pine nuts, salt, pepper and currents. Stir well until you obtain a sticky mixture.
3. Go on to the stuffing. Put a little filling on each sardine rolling it up from the head, forming a roll. Place the rolls in an oiled oven dish, separating them with the bay leaves. Prepare an emulsion with some orange juice, pepper and if you prefer with a teaspoon of honey.
4. Bake the Sarde a beccafico in a preheated oven at 180 °C for 15 minutes and then serve the sardines as soon as they are cold.