A 'Sardine' is not a type of fish, but a category: the term is applied to any small silvery oily fish, typically a small fish of the Herring family, Clupea pilchardus, abundant off the shores of Sardinia and Brittany, or a young pilchard of the Cornish coast, when cured, preserved in oil and packed in tins or other cases for sale as a table delicacy. (OED).
Hartlepool Northern Daily Mail - Monday 23 February 1948
First definitively known in English in John Foxe's 'Ecclesiasticall history' of 1570; " [At Rochelle] there was sent to them euery day in the Riuer (by the hand of the Lord no doubt) a great multitude of fishe (called surdones)." (OED). The dish called 'sardeyne' in the 15th Century 'Austin Manuscripts' (Austin 1440) may or may not refer to the fish. In the 'Stamford Mercury' (24 April 1777 p2) 'sardines' are described as "a fish resembling our sprat"
Now almost always supplied canned in brine, oil or tomato.
Original Receipt from 'Pot-luck; or, The British home cookery book' by May Byron (Byron 1914)
225. SARDINE SANDWICHES (Isle of Wight)
Take a dozen good-sized sardines, carefully remove the skin and backbone, and mash them up very fine with a fork. Add salt, pepper, and vinegar to taste, and mix it well in. Have thin white bread-and-butter cut, spread the mixture thinly over a slice, and cover it with another slice. When sufficient has been prepared, cut off the crust, cut the sandwiches diagonally into little threecornered pieces not more than two and a half inches long by one and a half wide, and arrange them prettily upon a folded napkin with sprigs of parsley between. This is an enormous improvement upon the ordinary sardine sandwich, and excellent for afternoon tea, etc. Its only fault is that the sandwiches, which take a good while to prepare, are eaten up so rapidly I
226. CURRIED SARDINES (Kent)
One box of sardines; strain off the oil into a small frying-pan; add to this a dessertspoonful of curry powder previously mixed with cold water. Thicken the oil with a little arrowroot, previously mixed with water. As soon as the curry and oil are about as thick as good melted butter, the sauce is ready. Pour this over the sardines, and place them in the oven long enough to get heated through. When quite hot, serve with pieces of toast.
227. SARDINES ON TOAST (Cheshire)
Divide the sardines lengthwise; remove the bones, tail, and skin; put them in the oven between two hot plates, with a Httle of the oil - let them be quite hot. Cut some thin strips of bread the length of the sardines, fry them in butter, and serve with half a sardine on each. Add a little cayenne and salt and a squeeze of lemon. Serve hot.
228. SARDINE TOAST (Essex)
Six sardines, two eggs, cayeime, buttered toast. Scale and bone the sardines, boil the eggs hard and chop them. Lay first the chopped egg on some hot buttered toast, then the sardines seasoned with cayenne, and put in the oven to get hot.
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