fish and chips like in Tangier – Liberation
You cook, by Jacky Durand
Every weekend we hit the kitchen with recipes for big and small days. This Sunday, a hymn to sardines in a breaded and spiced version with harissa mayonnaise.
Our passion for grilled sardines (but also in oil) dates back to a century ago. Minot, sitting on the counter of a military house where the owner, who had done “Indo”, served us grenadines between two bursts of pastis and beer. There was serious “liquid eating” in the Grande Muette, but a soldier was sometimes tasked with grilling a squadron of sardines and merguez sausages as ammunition for the stomach between heavy shots of booze. This is how we discovered the whole grilled sardine with its innards. Surely the unfortunate person who had the bad idea of emptying this magnificent blue fish would have ended up “in the hole” with toilet chores.
From the rue d’Aligre in Paris to the ports of Marseille and Algiers, grilled sardines are our favorite dish. A subtle mix of nostalgia and cheerfulness, it tickles our taste buds and our mood when we gorge on lots of harissa, a handful of fries, salad and onion rings.
Grilled sardines are both street food when eaten alone in a comforting little urban canteen on a cold day, and wild cuisine when grilled under the dodger above the Calanque des Moines. But we would never have imagined it in Mediterranean fish and chips, as Mireille Sanchez argues in her book Mediterranean, a journey through cuisines, 24 coastal and island countries, 1,300 recipes, 5,000 years of history (1). From the “Capri salad” (Italy) to the “Syrian ravioli in sauce” via the “Sifnos cake” (Greece), here is a sum as erudite as it is tasty that you will always have on hand in the kitchen. For Mireille Sanchez there are no doubts: “It is precisely to Jewish cuisine that we owe this simple and famous dish. Whether brought to London by Joseph Malin, a Jewish immigrant from Eastern Europe in the 18th century, or by Portuguese Marranos in the 1500s, fish and chips appear in many Mediterranean ports.
This weekend, try Mireille Sanchez’s “fish and chips like in Tangier”. For four people you need 8 sardines, decapitated, gutted, scaled, with central bones (you can ask your fishmonger to do it with a smile); 6 medium potatoes; oil for frying (peanut, sunflower). For the dough for the chermoula donut: 1 bunch of coriander; 2 cloves of garlic; 1 teaspoon coarse salt; 2 tablespoons of olive oil; 150 g of flour; 1 tablespoon of ground cumin; 1 teaspoon of paprika; 1 egg; 25 cl of ice cold beer or sparkling water. For the harissa mayonnaise: one egg yolk; 2 tablespoons of harissa; from 10 to 15 cl of sunflower oil; 1 lemon (the zest + a drop of juice).
Prepare the harissa mayonnaise: mix the egg yolk and harissa in a bowl, then whip the mayonnaise, incorporating the oil a little at a time. Finish by adding the lemon zest and a dash of lemon juice.
Prepare the dough for the chermoula donut: in a mortar, pound the bunch of coriander, the peeled garlic cloves with the coarse salt and the olive oil until you obtain a fine dough (the chermoula). In a bowl, pour the sifted flour, cumin and paprika. Break the egg into it, then beat everything, gradually pouring in the beer or sparkling water. Incorporate the chermoula into this donut batter, let it rest.
Prepare the fries: Peel, then thinly slice the potatoes with a mandolin. Heat a pan, throw in the potato slices several times. Fry ten minutes at 180ºC. Drain on absorbent paper, salt and pepper. Slightly flatten the sardines. Mix the donut batter, then dip the sardines in it. Fry them for five minutes in oil at 180ºC. Drain on absorbent paper. Salt and pepper for the fries. Serve the sardine fritters with the chips and harissa mayonnaise.
(1) Editions de la Martinière, 55 euros, 2022.