Grilled sardines with Moroccan spiced salad

Made at J Sheekey | Serves 4

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Typical of the salad served on the quayside in Essaouira, on Morocco’s Atlantic coast, this dish works well with other oily fish such as mackerel and anchovies. Preserved lemons are available in larger supermarkets. Ras el hanout is slightly different wherever you buy it, but tends to feature ginger, galangal, anise, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, cardamom, mace and turmeric, together with aromatic flowers such as lavender and rose. Good delis and most supermarkets sell it.

8 sardines, gutted and cleaned

2 tsp ras el hanout

3 green peppers

8 medium-sized tomatoes, skinned, deseeded and diced into 1cm pieces

½ bunch spring onions, chopped

6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing

2 tbsp white wine vinegar

1 garlic clove, peeled and crushed

1 preserved lemon, diced

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

 

Cut the peppers in 4 lengthways, remove the stalk and seeds, and place on a grill tray. Grill skin side up for about 10 minutes or until the skin is blistering and blackening. Remove from the tray, put into a bowl, cover with Clingfilm and leave for about 10 minutes. Remove the skin with your fingers or by scraping with a knife.

Cut the skinned peppers into 1cm dices and place in a bowl with the tomatoes, spring onions, olive oil, vinegar, garlic and preserved lemon. Season and mix well. Add a little of the juice from the preserved lemons to taste.

Preheat the grill to its hottest temperature. Make a couple of diagonal slashes across each side of the fish, brush them with olive oil and rub ½ teaspoon of ras el hanout into the skin and the slashes of each. Season. Grill the fish for about 3 minutes on each side until the skin begins to crisp.

Place the salad onto a large serving dish and top with the grilled sardines. Serve with warm crusty bread.

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