This recipe was reproduced by the author of the book, David Gitlitz, from Maria Gonzalez’s testimony during the Inquisition. Gonzalez was interrogated in 1513 in Toledo on suspicion of renouncing Christianity and continuing to practice Judaism, and she admitted during the interrogation that she ate “fried sardines stuffed with hard-boiled eggs” on Friday – even though this was a violation of the church’s dictates. Why is this a violation? Gitlitz explains that even in Christianity there are religious dietary laws, and that on Fridays, for example, devout Catholics avoid meat and its derivatives (such as fat, dairy products or eggs) in order to leave room for spiritual work.
Chef Yehi Zino says that when he came across this dish in Gitlitz’s book, it “reminded me very much of the mezhujin – stuffed sardines – that were prepared for special occasions in my Moroccan home. The filling mixture that appears in the book is very different from what I know – of course tarragon, which is not used at all in Moroccan cuisine and hard-boiled egg, which is not usually paired with fish, but it is an ingredient in the filling of a pastry called lehem lidem, which I love. I really liked the resulting combination of flavors and its inspired a dish that will be a regular part of the restaurant’s menu soon.”
Ingredients for Stuffed Sardines
- 8 mackerels or large sardines weighing about 2.5-2.8 oz (70-80 grams) each, cut in half, cleaned and gutted (at the peak of the season - May, June and November you can find sardines weighing up to 300 grams and then only use 2 sardines, one per person, and extend the frying time for 10 minutes on each side)
- ¼ tablespoon tarragon leaves chopped
- ½ tablespoon cilantro chopped
- ground black pepper
- 2 eggs rough chopped into large cubes
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
1. Spread half of the amount of fish halves on a work surface with the skin facing down. Sprinkle tarragon leaves, coriander leaves, salt and pepper on the belly of the fish and sprinkle hard-boiled egg cubes on top. Close with the other half of the fish and fasten with a toothpick.
2. Heat olive oil in a large pan over medium-low heat and fry the fish for 5-7 minutes on each side. From time to time shake the pan gently to prevent the fish from sticking to the pan. The fish is ready when it is crispy on the outside.