Roasted Sardines by Paco Peña

Roasted Sardines

Strange calluses are suddenly appearing on my hands and feet, said the young boy, seated at the table in the dark kitchen, flooded with the smoke of the roasted sardines.

Typical Spanish recipe of sardines, roasted over hot embers on a grill, on an electric griddle, or skewered on a stick and roasted over the flames of a bonfire at the beach.


  • Sardines
  • Coarse salt or salt flakes

To prepare the sardines at home, they should ideally be cooked on a grill pan with a corrugated bottom. The sardines, which must be fresh, should not be cleaned, as the skin and the scales will protect the sardines from being burnt and will provide them with the necessary fat while being roasted.

Grease the grill pan with a silicone brush dipped in olive oil, and heat over a strong heat. Put four sardines on the grill pan and roast for 3 minutes on each side. When turning them over, season with salt. Do likewise with the rest of the sardines. Serve with baked potatoes seasoned with salt, virgin olive oil and sprinkled with chopped parsley, and ideally with sliced white bread or rye bread.

Use your fingertips to eat them outdoors. Remove the fish fillets from the backbone, and the skin will peel off by itself. Then, eat the flesh of the sardine easily. The sardine head and backbone will appear clean as a sign of a well-roasted fish. Cleaning the sardine innards before cooking them is optional, but many people think it’s better not to, so they are tastier.

Texts written by Lena Yau and María Zarzalejos, and taken from The Taste of the ñ: Glossary of Gastronomy and Literature [El sabor de la eñe. Gastronomía y literatura], Madrid, Instituto Cervantes, 2011.

Translation by Carmen Casares

Opening quote: from “The sponge diver” (“El pescador de esponjas”), in Short Stories to be Read on the Bus (Relatos para leer en el autobús), by Juan Jacinto Muñoz Rengel.