In this recipe the honey cooks with the fennel to temper its harsher edges and create a lovely, deeply sweet, flavour. That makes a bed for bright sardines and it’s then finished with a squeeze of orange, capers and mint for a bright summery dish. Serve with buttery new potatoes and some salad leaves.
3 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, sliced into thin half-moons
2 garlic cloves, crushed or roughly chopped
3 fennel bulbs
2 bay leaves
100ml white wine
11/2 tbsp medium honey
8 sardines (or 4 mackerel), butterflied and pin-boned
2 tbsp chopped fresh mint
2 tbsp capers, rinsed and drained
Heat 2 tbsp of the olive oil in a large frying pan or shallow casserole dish. Cook the onion until just softening and then add the garlic to soften too. Trim and slice the fennel bulbs, then add to the pan along with the bay leaves. Season and stir round. Pour in the wine. stir, then cover the pan and leave for 10 mins, stirring halfway through. Take the lid off, mix through the honey and cook for another 5 mins. The fennel should be completely soft and becoming a lovely sweet golden colour. Lift the contents of the pan onto a serving plate, discarding the bay leaves.
Add another tbsp of olive oil to the same pan. Once hot, sit the fish in skin-side down (you may need to do this in two batches). Season, allow to cook for 2 mins then turn over and cook through for another 2-3 mins. Lift the fish onto the fennel.
Give a squeeze of orange over the top and a couple of grindings of pepper. Chop the capers with the mint and scatter over. Serve while still warm.
(This recipe originally featured for Borough Market.)