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Poached Sardines in Tomato Vanilla Sauce

Slofoodgroup Team August 18, 2021

Vanilla-Scented Tomato Sauce Over Lightly Poached Sardines

Fish, or any seafood in general, and vanilla is a beloved pairing used by Michelin-starred chefs all around the world. The unexpected and underutilized pairing can be traced back to Comoros Islands in the 1890s, where the French started growing vanilla beans. Although locals paired vanilla with savory foods from the beginning, the pairing only appeared in French cookbooks in the1950s. We tried the fish-vanilla pairing in the Vanilla Brown Butter and Cod recipe before, but now we take it up a notch and spiced our fennel-tomato sauce with saffron and vanilla from Comoros island itself. The sauce itself is very easy and it only takes 15 minutes to make. We chose sardines to poach but any white fish goes well in this recipe, or even mussels. It is best paired with crusty bread but any pasta or rice side will do.

Poached Sardines Served With Vanilla, Tomato, Saffron, & Fennel Sauce

Serves: 2

Prep Time: 15‘

Cooking Time: 30’

Additional Time: 0’ 

  • 1 can San Marzano tomatoes
  • 1/2 bulb fennel, chopped
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon saffron, lightly crushed 
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla seeds
  • 1/2 cup water or vegetable stock
  • 1 pound/450 grams fresh sardines
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon white sugar
  • ½ teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
  1. Heat the oil in a medium saucepan and cook the garlic, fennel, and onions for 5-7 minutes or until softened.
  2. Add the canned tomatoes and lightly crush them with a spatula.
  3. Add water or vegetable stock, saffron, and vanilla, and simmer on low for 15 minutes.
  4. Add the fish in, cover, and cook for another 10-15 minutes or until the fish is cooked.