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Fried sardines, Tangier-style

Recipe for fried sardines, Tangier-style by Paula Wolfert.

By Paula Wolfert
  • Serves 2
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Fried sardines, Tangier-style
"This dish is known in Tangier as 'husband and wife' because of the positioning of the sardines," writes Paula Wolfert. "The fish heads are left on, and pairs of fish are arranged so that the heads are looking away from one another, like an old alienated married couple! Serve hot or cold, brushed lightly with oil and lemon juice."


  • 4 fresh or frozen sardines (about 350gm)
  • 1 tbsp roughly chopped coriander leaves
  • 1 tbsp roughly chopped parsley leaves
  • 1¼ tsp cumin seeds, preferably Moroccan
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 tsp coarse sea salt
  • 1 tsp sweet paprika
  • ¼ tsp hot paprika or cayenne pepper
  • 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice, plus extra for brushing
  • For deep-frying: oil
  • For dusting: flour
  • For brushing: olive oil


  • 1
    Rinse the sardines under cool running water. Slit open the bellies lengthways and remove the backbones and innards. Use scissors to snip away any bones near the head. Rinse and pat dry.
  • 2
    Crush the coriander and parsley to a paste in a heavy mortar or finely chop in a small blender. Add the cumin seeds, garlic and salt and crush or blend to a thick cream. Blend in the sweet paprika, hot paprika or cayenne and lemon juice. Smear the mixture over the flesh of all the sardines, then fold back together so that each sardine resumes its original shape. Arrange on a plate, cover and chill for 1 hour.
  • 3
    Heat oil for deep-frying to 190C in a deep wide pan. Dust the sardines with flour, then deep-fry them until golden brown and crisp on both sides (be careful, hot oil will spit). Drain on absorbent paper. Brush them with a little olive oil and lemon juice, then position “husband and wife” pairs, heads looking away from each other. Serve at once, or allow to cool, cover and chill to serve cold.


Note*The Food of Morocco ($65, hbk) by Paula Wolfert is published by Bloomsbury. This recipe has been reproduced with minor GT* style changes.