Short-order suppertime

Bart Beek | VOLUME 31, ISSUE 4
Sardines with crispy capers and lemon butter
Ditch the takeaway and spice up your quick-dinner repertoire with these fuss-free dishes.

Sardines with crispy capers and lemon butter

Grilling the flesh-side first in a pan stops the sardines from curling over and reduces the risk of over-cooking them.

Preparation time: 5 minutes

Cooking time: 3 minutes

Serves: 4

16 fresh sardines, butterflied

40ml extra virgin olive oil

Salt flakes and freshly milled black pepper

60g unsalted butter

1 lemon, juice only

¼ cup baby capers in vinegar, drained

¼ cup micro parsley

Heat half the olive oil in a frypan. Add the drained capers and gently toss until crispy and dark grey – be careful, as they will spit hot vinegar while frying. Drain on a plate lined with kitchen paper.

Wipe the frypan clean with kitchen paper. Heat the remaining olive oil.

Season the sardines on the flesh-side only with salt and pepper. Gently place into the frypan with the flesh-side facing down. Grill for 90 seconds until crisp and golden, then carefully turn and grill for 20 seconds. Remove from the frypan and set aside.

Wipe the frypan clean with kitchen paper. Add the butter and melt it for 10 seconds. Squeeze the lemon juice over the butter and turn off the heat. Stir the mixture. Put the sardines back into the pan and coat them well with the lemon butter.

Serve the fillets on warmed plates, topped with crispy capers and a little micro parsley.

Baba ghanoush is a Middle Eastern eggplant dip with an amazing, smoky flavour. You need to char the eggplants over an open flame or charcoal grill – only then will you be rewarded with the delicious, baba ghanoush flavour.

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: 25 minutes

Serves: 4

Baba ghanoush

2 eggplants

3 tblsps tahini paste

1 tblsp cumin seeds

2 tblsp coriander seeds

2 cloves garlic, crushed

½ lemon, juice only

Salt flakes and freshly milled black pepper

Dry-fry the cumin and coriander seeds in a small, heated saucepan for several minutes until fragrant. Grind in a mortar and pestle until fine.

Preheat the oven to 180°C.

Place the eggplants directly above a charcoal grill, or over a flame, to char and flake the skin all over. Then roast the eggplants in the preheated oven for 20 minutes to cook the middle. Once cool, peel away the charred skin with your fingers. Process the eggplant flesh along with all the remaining ingredients in a blender until smooth. Check the seasoning.

24 assorted small tomatoes

15ml extra virgin olive oil

12 lamb cutlets, French-trimmed

Salt and pepper

100g fetta, crumbled

1⁄3 cup mint leaves

Halve the tomatoes and place onto a heavy, metal tray. Using a brulee torch, scorch the tops of the tomatoes lightly.

Season the lamb well. Heat a frypan and add a little olive oil. Grill the lamb until medium rare.

Spread a good amount of baba ghanoush onto a plate. Place several tomatoes at both ends and the lamb in the centre. Finish with some crumbled fetta, mint leaves, a splash of olive oil, and some pepper.

Flame-seared calamari with burnt-chilli aioli

I use small, fresh calamari and clean them myself, but you could ask your fishmonger to clean them for you. The insides can be tough, so score them well. In this recipe, it takes just three minutes to grill the calamari on a charcoal grill.

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: 3 minutes

Serves: 4

Burnt-chilli aioli

1 head garlic

15ml extra virgin olive oil

2 bird’s eye chillies

1 free-range egg, yolk only

8ml apple cider vinegar

2 pinches white pepper

Salt flakes

75ml extra virgin olive oil

75ml grape-seed oil

1 tblsp iced water

Preheat the oven to 180°C.

Cut off the top section of the garlic head to partly expose the cloves. Place the head onto a square of aluminium foil and pour 15ml olive oil over the garlic. Wrap in the foil to fully enclose and place on a small oven tray. Roast for 35 minutes. Cool to room temperature.

Halve the chillies, remove and discard the seeds. Place the chillies, skin-side up, onto a sheet of aluminium foil and burn with a brulee torch until blackened. Chop finely.

In a bowl, whisk the egg yolk, vinegar, pepper and salt. Slowly trickle in the olive oil and grape seed oil, whisking continually. When combined, whisk in the iced water, 12g roasted garlic puree and the burnt chilli.

4 small, fresh calamari tubes

1 lemon, jest and juice

2 bird’s eye chillies, thinly sliced

Salt flakes and freshly milled black pepper

30ml extra virgin olive oil

2 small lemons, halved

8 spring onions, split, cut into 4cm lengths

¼ cup basil leaves

Cut the calamari tubes open to form a flat body. Scrape the insides clean. Using a sharp knife, score the insides 2mm deep and 5mm apart in a cross-hatch pattern.

Combine the lemon zest and juice, sliced chillies, seasoning and olive oil. Rub into the calamari.

Preheat a charcoal grill until the charcoal ashes over.

Grill the cut sides of the four lemon halves until slightly blackened.

Place the calamari between two wire racks and place directly over the grill. Grill for 90 seconds, then turn over and grill for another 90 seconds. Cut into bite-sized pieces and toss with the spring onions and basil leaves.

To serve, smear burnt chilli aioli onto a plate, top with calamari and a charred lemon half.