12 large sardines or small mackerel, descaled and gutted (or large mackerel fillets)
Olive oil

For the dry spice mix

2 teaspoons cumin seeds
2 teaspoons coriander seeds
1 teaspoon paprika
1 heaped teaspoon salt
1 heaped teaspoon sugar

For the marinade

1 good pinch coriander seeds
1 good pinch cumin seeds
1 good pinch caraway seeds
1 good pinch dried chilli flakes
1 large or 2 small red onions, finely sliced
2 garlic cloves, finely sliced
2 bay leaves
1 glass white wine
1/2 glass of wine vinegar or cider vinegar.


Put a heavy based frying pan over a medium heat. Add the whole spices for the dry spice mix and toast for a few minutes, until they start to pop. Put them in a large mortar, add the salt and sugar, and grind to a fine texture.

Make sure the fish are dry to the touch; pat dry with kitchen paper if necessary. Lay them on a board or large plate and dust with the spice mixture, making sure they are evenly covered.

Put a large, heravy frying pan over a medium heat and add a glug of olive oil. Add the fish (you will need to cook them in batches) and fry gently, colouring and crisping them lightly on each side, 3- 4 minutes, turning occasionally should do it, but don’t fret about cooking them right through, because the cooking will be completed by the hot marinade.

Transfer the fried fish to a deep dish for marinating. If you use an oven proofdish you won’t have to transfer the fish when it comes to reheating them later.

Leave the frying pan on the heat and add a little more oil. Throw in the coriander, cumin, caraway and chilli for the marinade, then add the sliced onion , garlic and bay leaves. Fry for four to five minutes, until the onion is soft. Pour in the wine and vinegar, bring to a simmer and cook for five minutes using a wooden spoon to scrape up any caremelised bits from the bottom of the pan. Pour the hot marinade over the the fish , making sure they are all completely covered. Leave to cool then chill for at least 6 hours before serving. It is best served at room temperature or slightly warm , rather than hot or cold, so either take it out of the fridge a few hours before serving or reheat gently, in its marinade, in a low oven.

Serve with flatbreads, such as pitta or homemade tortillas and a simple cucumber and lettuce salad.