Medieval Sweet and Sour Sardines


We selected this recipe from a 14th-century Venetian source, anonymous like a large part of the medieval cookbooks. A version of this dish still exists as a modern-day Venetian course, called Sarde in Saor (sardines with sauce).
The author suggests using any kind of fish for this delicious dish, sweet-and-sour with a well-balanced and strong flavor.

10-12 medium-sized sardines
2 white onions
100 ml white-vine vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
peeled almonds
strong spices (nutmeg, cloves, black pepper, long pepper)
extra virgin olive oil

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Pan fry the sardines in olive oil, just thirty seconds for each side.
For preparing the sweet-and-sour sauce, peel and boil the onions for five minutes without cooking them fully. This way, onions’ taste becomes sweeter. Chop the onions and put them in a pan with olive oil. When they start browning, add the vinegar and a little water. When the sauce boils, add the honey and the finely-ground spices, then raisins, almonds, and salt. Cook for a minute stirring it often. If the sauce becomes too thick, add water.
Plate and serve the sardine covered with the sauce.

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The spices
Nutmeg, cloves, and various kind of pepper (white, black, and long pepper) are essential in medieval cooking. Cooks and physicians called them strong spices. In this manuscript, the author gives us the following mix, without providing the exact amount of ingredients but just the ratio: for two nutmegs, use two ounces of black pepper, two of long pepper, and one-eighth of an ounce of cloves.
Remember that the medieval authors always suggest adjusting the amount of spice to our taste. We used for this recipe a good amount of spices, as you can see in the video, to balance the flavor and fats of the sardines.
Long pepper was a spice widely used in Antiquity and Middle Ages, but now it is almost forgotten in Europe. We find it in India, Nepal, Pakistan, North Africa, and South-East Asia. You can substitute it with black pepper.

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Original recipe
Cisame de pesse quale tu voy.
Toy lo pesse e frigello, toy zevolle e lessale un pocho e taiale menude, po’ frizelle ben, poy toli aceto et aqua e mandole monde intriegi, et uva passa, e specie forte, e un pocho de miele, e fa bolire ogni cossa insema e meti sopra lo pesse.

Cisame of any kind of fish.
Take the fish and cook it. Boil the onions a little, then slice thinly and cook them. Take vinegar, water, whole peeled almonds, raisins, strong spices, and a bit of honey. Boil the ingredients together and cover the fish with the sauce.

YouTube Channel

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