Jamie’s 30 Minute Meals #11: Grilled Sardines
This is our 11th cooking/blogging experiment from Jamie’s 30 Minute Meals. This week’s meal was “Grilled Sardines, Crispy Halloumi, Watercress Salad & Figs, Thick Chocolate Mousse.” Frankly, this is the recipe in the book that scared me the most. I was a “pescaphobe” for most of my life, and it’s only in the last five years or so that I’ve come to enjoy seafood. Whole fish with bones and heads are basically my Everest. I knew we’d have to get to this one eventually though, so I thought it was time to meet my fears head on. Luckily it was easy to make and DELICIOUS! I ate every bit. (I’m as shocked as you are!)
Substitutions and changes: We were able to get everything. We even went with the suggested chilled rosÃ© as an accompaniment! The only change was making a half recipe each of the sardines and the mousse, just because it was only the two of us eating it.
Quick verdict: As a meal, this all went together extremely well and the flavours of the components all complemented each other. (Better so than many of the other recipes.) The sardines were brilliant and the strong aromatics with them masked any potential “fishiness.” Elapsed time was 39:29, but that included about 5 annoying minutes of faffing about with pomegranates. This was a pretty quick one! We’re both rating it as our first official 10/10. If you make this meal for someone, they will be impressed! Read on for photos of the preparation.Pre-start prep: We got out all the necessary ingredients, tools, and cooking vessels. The sardines were de-scaled, but the Snook had to gut them. He also picked all the leaves off the cress. (We didn’t count this in the time since Jamie didn’t have to do it on the show.) The kitchen was clean (well, as clean as it gets) and everything wiped down and ready to go. The oven was heating. We had a frying pan and a saucepan ready on the stove, and a roasting tray ready for the fish.
First, the ingredients for the fish: sardines, garlic, lemon, chilli, parsley, fennel seeds. (A half-recipe would be four sardines, but these ones were on the small side so we went with six.)
Next is the salad: flaked almonds, rocket, watercress, alfalfa sprouts, mint, pomegranate, vinegar.
Ingredients for the figs: figs, honey, and mint; along with ingredients for the halloumi: halloumi, sesame seeds, and garlic.
Ingredients for the mousse: 70% chocolate, butter, sugar, cream, vanilla, eggs, brandy, strawberries.
The accompaniments: a bottle of chilled rosÃ© and a pack of pita breads.
The pots and pans, ready to go. The frying pan is for toasting the almonds and then frying the halloumi. The saucepan is for melting the chocolate. (You’re meant to do it in a bowl over a pot of boiling water, but our induction stove has such fine-grained heat control we can melt chocolate directly on it.) The roasting tray is for the sardines.
And we’re off! Preparation actually starts with the dessert. This is me whipping the cream and sugar for the mousse by hand.
Meanwhile, the Snook started melting the chocolate and butter on the stove. (The induction worked great for this!)
The Snook separated an egg and then whisked the whites til they were stiff.
The yolk went into my whipped cream, which also has vanilla and brandy in it.
The egg whites are done!
The chocolate is just about melted…
…which means it’s time to put the chocolate into the whipped cream. (The Snook disliked this step because it’s hard to get all the chocolate out of the saucepan. He’d rather have microwaved the chocolate in the serving bowl and added the cream to it.)
And now the egg whites get folded in.
Jamie mentioned on the show that this is a denser chocolate mousse than most folks are used to, because commercial mousses always beat in a lot of air (since it’s cheap volume). This was looking silky and luxurious. It went straight into the freezer!
The almonds for the salad went onto the heat to toast.
Finally it was time to make the sardines! They were very quick. We added garlic, salt, pepper, lemon zest and juice, olive oil, chilli, parsley stalks, and fennel seeds. Everything got tossed around then put into the hot oven.
Almonds are toasted! Now we can reclaim that pan for the cheese…
Here I’m pressing sesame seeds into the slices of halloumi.
They get put into the hot frying pan with olive oil and garlic to start getting crispy.
The pita also go into the oven, “splashed” with a bit of cold water as directed. (Ours didn’t turn out great, but it’s probably because these are more of a thin flat bread than a thicker pocket. They overbaked and turned into crispbread, basically.)
Now the salad. I’ve combined all the greens together and now I’m whacking the pomegranate to get the seeds out. This is one of Jamie’s favorite tricks, but somehow it never works as easily for me as it does for him. Maybe his pomegranates are riper? At any rate, I gave up pretty quickly and switched to picking the seeds out by hand.
Check out the Snook’s delicate knife-work on those figs! He’s squeezing them to get the flower shape.
The other half of the pomegranate gets “squeezed” to make the dressing. On the show, Jamie just squeezes it and all the juice runs out. In reality, the seeds just started plopping out. The Snook ended up having to pop them in a sieve to get the juice. (We had pomegranate juice EVERYWHERE in the kitchen. This page of the cookbook now has purple splotches all over it.)
The completed salad, with sprouts, almonds, and pomegranate, waiting to be dressed.
The salad dressing, which included olive oil and vinegar as well.
The figs were drizzled with honey and mint.
The halloumi looked great. We flipped it over to cook on the other side too.
The finished sardines. They looked AMAZING.
The chocolate mousse had set up nicely in the freezer.
The finished main meal: sardines, salad, fig, and halloumi.
And our dessert: chocolate mousse with strawberries!
Tasting notes: Like I said, really good. I was tentative about the sardines at first, but within a few minutes I was taking them apart happily. The strong flavours of the chilli, lemon, fennel, and parsley complemented the fish and allowed me to enjoy it without being freaked out. We may have overcooked the halloumi a little bit; it was getting to the “squeaky” stage. But its saltiness and squidginess was a nice contrast to the fish and salad. The salad was sweet and zingy. And the figs! Such a simple idea, but such a great texture contrast and flavour complement to everything else. (It helps to have nice, ripe figs.) The chocolate mousse was excellent and we returned later in the night to finish it off. Chocoholics would love it!
Overall a really excellent meal. None of it was technically difficult, but all of the pieces really harmonised nicely. It would be a great one for a dinner party or a special dinner. I loved it, which just blows my mind considering how scared I was of it!
Stay tuned next week for another recipe from Jamie’s 30 Minute Meals!