Jason Atherton's Grilled sardines on toast with bacon, basil and tomato

Serves: 4


For the grilled sardines on toast with bacon, basil and tomato:

8 essential Waitrose sardine fillets, butterflied (filleted and opened flat)
A bunch of basil, leaves picked, stalks reserved
400g cherry tomatoes, about 35-40, halved
2tbsp red onion, finely diced
4tbsp sherry vinegar
120ml olive oil, plus extra to drizzle
1 ½ lemons, in halves ready for squeezing
Sea salt and black pepper
Vegetable oil, for frying
4 rashers of streaky bacon, left whole
120g tin sardines in tomato sauce
4 slices of think country bread (ciabatta or sourdough)
1 garlic clove, peeled and halved


1. Check the sardine fillets for bones, cover and refrigerate.  Set aside some of the basil leaves for garnish and put the rest into a bowl with half of the cherry tomatoes.

2. Add the onion, sherry vinegar, olive oil and the juice of ½ lemon to the tomatoes. Toss gently and season with salt. Cover and leave to marinate in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, heat a little vegetable oil in a small wide pan and fry the bacon rashers until crisp. Remove and drain on kitchen paper, trim to neaten if you like, and set aside.

4. Into the same pan, tip the tinned sardines in tomato sauce, basil stalks and remaining cherry tomatoes. Stir and let simmer over a medium heat for 10 minutes or until the tomatoes are cooked, stirring often. Remove from the heat and stir in the juice of ½ lemon. Transfer to a blender and puree until smooth, then press through a sieve into a bowl. Season.

5. Heat up a griddle or grill. Char-grill or toast the bread until golden brown, and scorched if using a griddle. Drizzle with olive oil and rub with the cut garlic clove.

6. Heat a good splash of vegetable oil in a large frying pan. Pan-fry the sardine fillets, skin side down first, for 1-2 minutes on each side until cooked. Season with a little salt and add a squeeze of lemon.

7. To serve, place the griddled bread on the plate and top with the pureed sardine mix and fresh sardines and garnish with the remaining basil.