This marinade is ideal for sardines that are to be grilled quickly over the coals of a barbecue. I enclose the wrapped fish in a small double-sided grill I bought in Vietnam and place the tightly closed grill directly on the coals.
½ bulb fennel, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic , finely chopped
1 small fresh chilli, seeded and finely chopped
2 tablespoons parsley, freshly chopped
1 teaspoon lemon zest, grated
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
fresh vine leaves, rinsed and drained, or preserved vine leaves, rinsed and drained
12 fresh sardines, cleaned
Preheat barbecue to very hot. Work all ingredients except vine leaves, sardines and lemon wedges to a smooth paste in a mortar or food processor. Rub sardines inside and outside with paste. Wrap each fish in lightly oiled vine leaves. Grill on barbecue for 2 minutes each side, turning once only. Serve with lemon wedges. The charred vine leaves are delicious to chew but should probably not be swallowed.
Variation For a very Mediterranean touch, throw common fennel onto the barbecue to add its aroma.