Braised Cornish sardines in a tomato and saffron sauce

By Tom Symons

Chef Tom Symons treated guests at Mousehole’s Old Coastguard to this splendid starter for years. A perennially popular step up from sardines on toast, it’s really easy to make and the sauce can be prepared in advance for the minimum of last-minute fuss. Tom has now moved on from the Old Coastguard and taken over the Mexico Inn, a 200-year-old village pub in Long Rock, with his partner Amy Parsons.
Serves 4 (as a starter)


  • 4 sardines, scaled, gutted and rinsed
  • 100ml extra virgin olive oil
  • 200g shallots finely diced
  • 200g celery, finely diced
  • 200g carrots, finely diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 300ml white wine
  • 1 pinch saffron strands
  • 1 tbsp tomato puree
  • 1kg ripe tomatoes, skinned, seeds removed and finely diced
  • Basil leaves to finish


Heat the olive oil in a wide, heavy-based saucepan. Add the shallots, celery, carrot and garlic with a large pinch of salt and cook without colour until translucent.

Add the tomato puree and cook for two minutes

Add the white wine and saffron and reduce quickly by three quarters.

Add the diced tomato flesh and season well, simmer to a sauce consistency

Season the sardines with salt add to the sauce, cover with greaseproof paper and braise slowly until just cooked (approximately 6 minutes).

Finish with a squeeze and lemon juice and check the seasoning

Serve on toast and finish with extra virgin olive oil and fresh basil leaves.

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