Learn to prepare finger-lickingly good grilled sardines Santurtzi style.
Sardines from the Bay of Biscay are not available all year round. The season runs from June to November, though the fish are at their tastiest in mid July around the time of the Feast of Our Lady of Carmel, the patron of Santurtzi.
To be sure that a sardine is fresh, check that it is bright silver in colour, its eyes are clear and bloodless, its body is firm and its gills are bright red.
Sardines go off after 2 or 3 days and begin to smell bad.
- Fresh, top-quality, medium sized sardines.
- Coarse salt
The first step is to prepare the fire.
Wood embers are best for grilling, though charcoal is easier to come by.
Light the fire and let the flames die down slowly until only the embers remain. If there is a flame the embers are not yet ready, so wait a little longer. Flames can burn the sardines.
Get the whole sardines ready, without gutting them or removing the scales, so as to protect the flesh while cooking. Add salt.
Place the grill about a hand’s breadth from the embers and arrange the sardines on it.
The grills used to cook sardines are called pailas in Santurtzi.
When the tails of the sardines begin to char, the fish is ready. Season with coarse salt on both sides and serve accompanied by a slice of bread.
They should be eaten while hot, using your fingers: hold the head in one hand and grab a piece of flesh from the back with the other. Pop it straight into your mouth to get the full flavour.
We recommend washing sardines down with Bizkaiko Txakolina designated origin txakoli wine.