Sardine Bil Foron

A fisherman stands cliff-side at the edge of the Raouché staring with intent at the water between him and the Pigeons' Rocks. The liquid tempest yearns for his attention and its waves become more pronounced and more seductive. The salty air of the Mediterranean comforts him, it's a smell that's ingrained into his Beiruti psyche - much like the smell of mahmoul being made or diesel burning. He hesistates for split-second but throws his fishing net through the air and into the water. It's 5am and the only other person on the Raouché beside the fisherman is a lonely ka'ek seller who looks at his cart in disdain. A few minutes pass and the fisherman's attention is locked on the water. He stands restless for some time before dragging the net out of the water to find a catch of smaller fish largely featuring fish from the sardine family. He feels content again.

This time of year is one of plentiful stock of fish from the sardine family. Beirutis and all Lebanese alike enjoy sardines throughout the summer months in a variety of recipes. Today I have attempted to recreate a dish that I remember from my childhood - Sardines Bil Foron or sardines in the oven. Simplicity at it's best. Believing in locality of produce I opted to buy Cornish sardines for this recipe - I got them cleaned by the fishmonger.


500g Sardines cleaned
2 medium tomatoes chopped
1 medium red chilli whole
1 red onion diced
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
3 tablespoons lemon juice + zest
1/2 tablespoon cumin seeds crushed
1/2 tablespoon fennel seeds crushed
1/2 tablespoon coriander seeds crushed


Toast the cumin, fennel and coriander seeds in a dry pan for 10-15 seconds at a medium heat. Crush in a pestle and mortar till fine. Put all the ingredients minus the fish in a deep baking tray and mix together. Place the fish in the baking tray and massage the rest of the ingredients in. Leave to marinade in the fridge for an hour.

Preheat the oven to 200C and cook the fish for 5-10 minutes until done. Serve with a simple leaf salad, chips or bulgar wheat.

Simplicity itself that allows the sardines to shine! Enjoy!


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