Taste Scene

Michael Devlin

Elevating the humble tinned sardine

SUPER-TASTY… I like my sardines in tins and would probably never have tried this recipe if I hadn’t watched Rick Stein’s Road To Mexico.

Those seven episodes of Rick Stein’s Road to Mexico are probably some of the best foodie TV I’ve ever watched – and that’s saying something.

These days, there is hardly a night goes by that I’m not slumped in front of a cookery show of some description. But Rick’s latest adventure… that was one of his finest.


The show was steeped in Mexican cuisine of course – chipotle and habanero and epazote and limes and cumin and avocado and beer – but better still, our Rick has now mastered the concept of a travelog; the food is only one part of the attraction. He talks literature, history, current trends, fads, music, cocktails to the extend that this latest programme was a real cultural feast, an explosion of colour, a fiesta of spirit and an adventure for the senses. And if that was the sense of the country via the medium of TV, imagine what it would be like in real life. Week by week I said to Herself, “You may see about someone to look after them weans – I’m away to Mexico in the morning.”

It obviously helped my enjoyment of these programmes that I’m on a plateau of Mexican food appreciation. I had my Thai phase, my prolonged Italian phase, my hunter-gather phase and that phase where I ate harissa with every meal (that was a strange one), but for some reason, the Mexican phase has never dissipated.

Honestly, if Herself and the weans would let me, I’d eat Mexican morning, noon and all through the night.

This recipe is one of those I would never have tried, had it not been for this programme.

I like sardines in tins, but in my naive world they’re more an emergency topping for toast than a serious ingredient in a serious meal. In this case though, with the crunch from the tostada, the freshness of the avocado and the slightly spicy fish-y stew – it was one of the most moreish things I’ve ever eaten – and that’s saying something. To give you an idea of how super-tasty this is, Herself hated it. All the more for me, so!

Note: Rick makes refried beans from scratch for this but for me, since the sardines are coming out of a tin, I don’t mind tinned beans.


INGREDIENTS (serves 4 as a light lunch)
• 2 tbsps of olive oil


• 1 onion, sliced

• 1 clove of garlic, chopped

• 1 tsp of dried oregano

• 1 green chilli, roughly chopped

• pinch of cayenne

• pinch of sugar

• tin of chopped tomatoes

• 2 tins of sardines in olive oil, drained

• vegetable oil for deep frying

• 12 small corn tortillas

• salt and pepper

• avocado to serve

•refried beans

•1 tin juice of half  a lime

•dash of water

1. Sweat the onion in the olive oil for about five minutes and then add the garlic and chill.
2. Continue to sweat over a low heat for at least another five minutes until the onions are soft.
3. Add the tin of chopped tomatoes, the oregano, the sugar, the cayenne and cook for another ten minutes.
4. Blend with a hand blender until everything is smooth. Add the drained fish to the pan and cook for another ten minutes or so, until the sauce is thick and the fish has broken up and combined with the sauce. Taste for seasoning and adjust if necessary.
5. Add half an inch of vegetable oil to a frying pan and heat until hot (hot enough that it will quickly brown a cube of bread).
6.One at a time, fry the tortillas until crisp (this takes less than a minute for each). Then drain each one on kitchen paper.
7. For the refried beans, I simply add these to a pan, with the juice of half a lime and a little water to loosen. They will also need a touch of salt and pepper.
8. To serve, spread the refried beans over eight fried tortillas. Put one of these onto four plates, spoon some of the sardine mixture on top, top with the second bean-y tortilla (bean side up), add yet more sardine mixture and finish with a third tortilla and top with any remaining sauce
and maybe a slice of avocado or three.

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