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FRIED SARDINES IN MASALAMasala is the Indian word for a mix of spices and there are many variations from one region to the next. Generally, most masalas in northern India are made of dried, ground spices, while in the south, they are often liquid pastes made of fresh spices ground with water, lime juice or coconut milk. The most well-known is garam masala. Garam means hot but in the warm, rather than fiery, sense with cinnamon, cloves and black cardamom typically being used. Garam masala mixes can differ in composition and flavour from one village to another and plenty are sold today that contain ‘cooling’ spices such as cumin and coriander. The masala mix in this recipe is one we came across in Kollam (here). It’s a combination of dried chillies (chiles), turmeric and black pepper. We’ve used it to coat a fish caught off the English coast. It’s delicious!

  • Yield: 4 Servings
  • Total Time: 25 Minutes


  • 20 medium-size sardines, cleaned (see here)
  • 1 tbsp ground turmeric
  • 2 tbsp chilli powder
  • 1 tbsp ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp salt
  • coconut oil for frying
  • 300 ml/10½ fl oz/1¼ cup cottage cheese or yogurt
  • 0.5 cucumber, deseeded and finely chopped
  • handful of coriander (cilantro) leaves, finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • salt and pepper
How to Make It
  1. Cut the heads and tails off the sardines to prevent them burning. With a sharp knife, cut diagonal slashes 2 cm/¾ inch apart into the sardine flesh on both sides Mix together the turmeric, chilli powder, pepper and salt in a bowl. Coat the sardines all over in the spice mix and lay them on a plate.
  2. To make the tzatziki, add all of the ingredients to a bowl and mix well. Put in the fridge for 15 minutes to allow the flavours to come together.
  3. Heat coconut oil in a frying pan (skillet) over a medium-high heat and fry the sardines in batches on both sides for 2–3 minutes, depending on how thick they are, until golden brown.
  4. Serve the sardines with a little of the aromatic oil from the pan drizzled over and the tzatziki on the side.

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