The beccafico (literally ‘the one that pecks at figs’, known in English as the garden warbler) is a little bird that during summer, before migrating to warmer climates for the winter, feasts on figs and becomes quite plump. For this reason, these fishrolls stuffed with plenty of ingredients are said to be prepared ‘as a garden warbler’, a beccafico.
The sarde a beccafico are a Sicilian dish, typical of the cities of Palermo, Messina, Agrigento and Catania. Local variations add also bit of orange zest to the filling, but in this case you need to make sure to get only oranges with edible skin, as these fruits are often sprayed with various pesticides. In some cases the sardines are even breaded and deep-fried, but we prefer this lighter, more traditional oven-baked version.
Serves: 4 | Preparation: 20 mins | Cooking: 20 mins
- Sardines, fresh: 1 kg
- Breadcrumbs or old bread: 150-160 g
- Pine nuts: 80 g
- Raisins: 70 g
- Anchovy fillets, in olive oil: 5-6
- Garlic: 1 clove
- Oranges: 1
- Parsley, fresh: a bunch
- Extra virgin olive oil (EVOO): 2 tbsp
- Bay leaves: as needed
- Salt and pepper: to taste
Soak the raisins in lukewarm water for about 20 minutes.
Open the sardines and remove the guts, the head and the bones. Rinse the sardines under cold running water and dry them with some kitchen paper. Lay them open on your work surface.
Tip: If you prefer, you can also use frozen sardines instead of fresh ones. Usually they’ve already been cleaned; just leave them to thaw and dry them with some kitchen paper before cooking.
Chop the anchovies and the pine nuts. Remove the raisins from the water and squeeze them in your first to get rid of as much water as possible. Peel the garlic, then mince it finely along with the parsley. In a bowl mix the breadcrumbs, the pine nuts, the raisins, the anchovies, the garlic, the parsley, the olive oil, salt and pepper.
Preheat the oven to 180°C.
Place some spoonfuls of breadcrumbs mixture on each sardine, then close them in a roll and place them in a baking tray greased with olive oil. Insert bay leaves between the sardines, as shown in the picture below.
Press the orange and sprinkle the juice over the sardines, along with a pinch of salt. Bake the sardines at 180°C for 20 minutes. Allow the sardines to cool down a little before serving them.