This is a dish of butterflied sardines sandwiched with a breadcrumb, parsley and parmesan stuffing. The plump stuffed fish with their tails sticking out are said to resemble the beccafico, a little bird found in Italy that loves to eat figs (fico).
- 16 sardines, scaled
- 2 cups fresh breadcrumbs
- 1 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves
- ½ garlic clove
- ½ cup freshly grated parmesan
- 1 egg, beaten
- salt and pepper
- 75 g (½ cup) plain flour
- olive oil
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
Remove the head and innards of each sardine (you may be able to do this in one action by pulling the head downwards; the innards should come too). Run your thumb from the gut cavity down to the tail to butterfly the sardines (opening them out flat). Pull out the backbones.
Put the breadcrumbs, parsley and garlic in a food processor and process finely. Place in a bowl with the parmesan, egg and salt and pepper and mix well.
Place a sardine in the palm of your hand skin-side down and put a tablespoon of breadcrumb stuffing in the centre. Flatten it out across the sardine without going right to the edges. Place another sardine on top and press it lightly to the stuffing. Repeat with the remaining sardines and stuffing.
Place the flour in a bowl and season with a little salt and pepper. Lightly dust the stuffed sardines in flour. Heat some oil in a frying pan and fry the sardines for about 3 minutes on each side, until golden.