Fried Sardines Stuffed With Chermoula: A Moroccan Street Food Classic
8 fresh sardines, cleaned and gutted
1/2 cup fresh parsley, finely chopped
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, finely chopped
5 cloves garlic, minced
1T ground cumin
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
Juice of 1/2 a large lemon (approx 1/4c)
1/4 cup olive oil
1 small or 1/2 large preserved lemon, rinsed and chopped (rind and pulp)
1 cup extra fine semolina or all purpose flour
Vegetable oil, for frying
Chermoula can be made using a mortal and pestle or in a a food processor. Mash or blend garlic, salt, parsley, cilantro, paprika, cumin, black pepper, lemon juice, olive oil, preserved lemon and harissa until well combined. Consistency should be that of a thin paste. Adjust taste based on your preference. Set aside.
Clean & Butterfly The Sardines. Descale using a spoon, cut off the heads and use a sharp knife to make a slit along the belly of each fish, being careful not to cut all the way through. Remove guts and carefully take out the backbone by sliding your finger in-between the backbone and the flesh of the fish. You’ll want to keep the filet in tact. Rinse and dry.
Spoon add a thick layer of chermoula onto one of the filets. Take a second filet and lay it over the top – essentially forming a sandwich. Let marinate for 2 hours covered in the refrigerator.
Place the semolina or flour in a shallow dish and coat each sardine parcel with a light dusting of flour.
Heat a generous amount of vegetable oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Carefully add the sardines to the pan, being careful not to overcrowd the pan. Fry the sardines for 2-3 minutes on each side, until golden brown and crispy.
Transfer the sardines to a paper towel-lined plate to drain any excess oil.
Serve the sardines hot, garnished with lemon wedges and harissa, if desired.
B’Saha & Bon Appetit!