18butterflied sardines (about 400gm), pin-boned25 gmsea salt flakes, plus extra for seasoning125 ml(½ cup) white wine vinegar½ bunch eachdill and thyme1orange, thinly sliced450 mlolive oil12thick ciabatta slicesTomato pâté500 gmvine-ripened tomatoes, scored1 tspfennel seeds100 gmsoftened butter
Lay sardines in a single layer in a non-reactive dish, scatter with sea salt flakes and set aside to cure (45 minutes).
Add 1 tbsp vinegar to a non-reactive 2-litre container, cover with a lid, swirl to rinse, discard excess. Place remaining vinegar in a small bowl, dip sardines into vinegar (discard remaining) and layer in prepared container, alternating with herb sprigs and orange slices. Cover with oil (adding more, if necessary), cover with lid and refrigerate for flavours to develop (3 hours).
For tomato pâté, blanch and refresh tomatoes, peel, remove seeds and coarsely chop. Cook in a saucepan over low heat, stirring occasionally, until thick and deep red (40-50 minutes). Season to taste with salt, set aside to cool. Meanwhile, dry-roast fennel seeds in a frying pan over low heat until fragrant, shaking pan occasionally (2-3 minutes). Pound with a mortar and pestle until fine, set aside. Beat butter in an electric mixer until pale (1-2 minutes), add fennel and tomato, beat to combine, then spoon onto plastic wrap, roll to form a firm cylinder and refrigerate until firm (1-2 hours).
Preheat a char-grill over high heat. Grill ciabatta, turning once, until golden (1-2 minutes each side). Serve with sardines and thick slices of tomato pâté.
This recipe is from the May 2010 issue of Australian Gourmet