Apparently today is World Heart Day. Yayy to that! Well, this is a topic close to my heart (pun unintended!) as I have a history of heart problems on my dad's side and I have been warned by all and sundry to eat healthy and stay fit. While it is a constant battle to choose healthy food over unhealthy (read baked goodies) I do make an effort to eat healthy at home. As a parent I need to lead by example so I firmly believe that if I eat trash then I have nothing to teach my kids about eating well. Anyway, we aren't such big health freaks either as is evident from my blog. We love food and we love to cook and yes, we love to eat so we do indulge in calorie rich stuff once in a way and most certainly when we eat out or are on vacation. Having said that, I do want to make an effort to keep our home cooked menus as grease free as possible. Keeping this in mind we decided to try out this lovely recipe handed over by my mom in law. It makes use of no oil to fry sardines.
Sardines they say are one of the world's healthiest foods, rich in Omega 3 fatty acids, vitamins B12 and D amongst many other nutrients, so why kill half of them by overcooking/frying them in tons of oil?
No oil in frying? Air fryers are a rage, I agree but no, this recipe does not require an expensive gadget. All it needs is banana/plantain leaves, lots of time and tons of patience. Since there is no oil used the sardines are tucked away in a blanket of banana leaves and slow cooked. This helps release natural fats and oils from the fish which help cook it, not to mention the steam which is generated by tucking them inside the banana leaves.
The fish is cooked so slow that the exterior turns slightly crispy while the flesh inside remains simply succulent and juicy. This is the magic of food cooked in banana leaves I guess. The leaves have so much character and strength that they can withstand the intense heat without burning/crumbling. I can only talk about the aroma of these mildly fragrant leaves that lends itself to the food that's cooked in making it so appetising. Yum! You need to eat it to believe it.
A big thank you to my mum-in-law for helping me discover this great technique. This is probably the best way to fry sardines with all the nutrition retained. I am definitely making more of this in the future. Love sardines? Try this!
Prep time: 15 mins | Frying time: 25-30 mins on a very slow heat
- 7-8 big sardines * see notes
- large banana leaves cleaned and cut to size
- 30-45 long dried red chillies * see notes
- 1-1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds
- 1-1/2 teaspoon mustard
- 1-1/2 teaspoon cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
- 10 flakes of garlic
- 1 inch fresh ginger
- 2 marble sized balls of tamarind (adjust to taste)
- salt to taste (you may skip this in the ground marinade and apply it directly on the fish)
1. Descale and clean the fish in a few changes of water. Allow to drain on a colander. If you wish, apply the salt to the fish in which case, do not add salt to the marinade
2. Grind all the ingredients mentioned under 'For the masala/marinade' to a smooth paste and marinate the cleaned sardines with this masala. Keep aside at least for 20-30 minutes to help the fish pull the spices.
3. Set a skillet on a medium high heat and place one piece of the banana leaf on it. Place the marinated fish over it, do not crowd the pan. Cover the fish with another banana leaf.
4. Reduce the heat completely and let the fish fry slowly - this could take a long time but its worth the patience. Around 10-12 minutes into frying time flip the whole packet using a large spatula and let the fish cook on the other side.
5. When done, serve hot with rice and curry of your choice.
1. Big sardines are roughly palm sized or the size of small Indian mackerels.
2. We used Kashmiri chillies, you may use a combination of Byadge & Kashmiri chillies, depending on the level of spice you prefer. Kashmiri chillies are lower on spice as compared to the Byadge variety.
3. The recipe for the marinade can be scaled down to approx 1/3rd of the quantity given if you wish to make a smaller batch but I doubt you will be able to grind such a small bunch of ingredients effectively. If you can, please go ahead.