Not only is the fish versatile and flavoursome, but Sanjay believes the sardine industrycould be a model for the fishing industry today.Nick Howell of The Pilchard Works, the force behind the re-branding of Cornish pilchards as Cornish sardines,describes the demise of the industry:“In 1861, 16,000 tonnes of sardines were caught and a great haul went out to Italy andother Catholic countries to eat on Fridays and during Lent … In the 1990s there were lessthan 10 tonnes landed, the stock was there but the demand wasn’t.” Step forward SanjayKumar, who in ourFish Fighttimes has spotted an opening for the highly sustainable,nutritious and tasty sardina pilchardus: “My little campaign to preserve sardines will be afight forever.” If, as Sanjay discovered, salted sardines are selling in Emilia Romagnatoday, what went wrong in Cornwall?Getting Maria Damanaki firmly on side, the EU Fisheries Commissioner, Sanjay askedher how we could re-kindle the love of sardines and she replied that: “traceability andlabeling are key”, adding that: “if we need a change, we need public support and the UKaudience is more informed than any other European country.” History teaches us that theimportance of the little blue fish cannot be underestimated: entire Cornish towns wereonce built on the pilchard/sardine industry, St Ives is a prime example and few peopleknow that the Bodleian library was built on pilchard money. Just as sardines gazeoptimistically intothe stars from that Cornish classic, star gazey pie, so Sanjay is a chef for whom the sky’s the limit, finally bringing an optimistic and inspiring note to thefuture of the UK’s fishing industry.
Sicily’s most famous sardine pasta dish: Pasta con le sarde (translated from LaCucina Siciliana by Eufemia Pupella)
This is a quintessentially Sicilian dish, specifically from Palermo and absolutelydelicious, totally easy to make, not to mention healthy. Key tastes are pine nuts, almonds,sardines and sultanas,a sweet/savoury fusion of Arab provenance. It’s a seasonal dish –best served March to September owing to availability of both fresh sardines and foragingfor wild fennel (abundant down in Cornwall at the moment, keep an eye out for lacyaniseed fronds, much coveted in Sicily).You will need:
1kg bucatini pasta (fat hollow straws, easily substituted for spaghetti but don’t tellthe Italians)
1kg fresh sardines (heads and tails removed, gutted)