Focaccia and fennel with sardines

    30 min

    Based on the classic Tuscan bread salad Panzanella, this nutritious dish combines heart-healthy canned sardines with chunks of herby Italian bread moistened with fresh tomato juice. Crunchy fennel, broad beans, peppery rocket and capers add their flavours, complementing the fish perfectly.

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    Serves: 4 

    • 170 g (6 oz) frozen broad beans
    • 2 cans sardines in oil, about 120 g each, drained
    • 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
    • 2 tsp lemon juice
    • 1 mild Spanish onion, halved and thinly sliced
    • 2 tbsp drained capers
    • 1 bulb of fennel
    • 3 large or 4 medium-sized ripe beefsteak tomatoes, about 750 g (1 lb 10 oz) in total
    • 1 herbed focaccia or ciabatta bread, about 280 g (10 oz), torn into 2.5 cm (1 in) pieces
    • 100 g (3½ oz) rocket

    Prep:30min  ›  Ready in:30min 

    1. Cook the broad beans in boiling water for 5–6 minutes. Meanwhile, split each sardine in half lengthways. Drain the broad beans and refresh under cold running water. Set aside.
    2. Put the oil and lemon juice in a salad bowl and whisk together. Stir in the onion slices and capers.
    3. Trim any feathery fronds from the fennel and finely chop them. Cut the fennel bulb in half lengthways, then cut into thin slices. Add the slices and chopped fronds to the salad bowl and toss to coat with the dressing.
    4. Cut the tomatoes into quarters. Scoop out the seeds and put them in a sieve held over a large mixing bowl. Press with the back of a spoon to extract the juice – you should have about 150 ml (5 fl oz). Discard the seeds. Cut the tomato quarters into thin wedges.
    5. Add the bread to the mixing bowl and toss to moisten with the tomato juice. Tip the bread into the salad bowl. Add the sardines and broad beans, the tomato wedges and rocket. Toss gently to coat everything with the dressing, taking care not to break up the sardines too much. Serve immediately.

    Some more ideas

    Canned salmon is an excellent alternative to sardines. Drain and flake the fish. * If you can't find herbed focaccia or ciabatta, use a plain one and add 2 tbsp chopped fresh herbs such as basil or dill to the dressing. * Instead of broad beans, use a can of flageolet beans, about 200 g. They need only to be drained and rinsed.

    Plus points

    Try to eat oily fish, such as sardines, at least twice a week as they provide essential fatty acids that may help to reduce the risk of heart disease. The bones in canned sardines are softened and edible, and a useful source of calcium. * Records show that onions have been cultivated since at least 3000BC, and throughout history they have been highly prized for their medicinal properties as well as for their flavour. In medieval times, they were hung in bunches on doors as protection against the plague. Onions are rich in a type of dietary fibre called fructoligosaccarides (FOS), which is believed to stimulate the growth of friendly bacteria in the gut while inhibiting the growth of harmful bacteria. Studies suggest that FOS also helps to protect against heart disease and cancer.

    Each serving provides

    A, B1, B6, B12, C, E, folate, niacin, calcium, selenium * fibre, iron, potassium, zinc * B2

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