Grilled sardines with fennel and grapefruit salad

Despite not being close to the sea, Madrid has the second largest fish market of the world after Tokyo. Very exciting to spend a year in this city and cook with all the delights from the sea!

Every day the fish shops stock up with an amazing assortment of fish and shellfish, even locals do not know the names of all fish that are on display. The fishmongers are true professionals in cleaning the fish and providing tips on how best to prepare them.

If you can get filleted sardines that is a nice luxury for this dish, but you most likely won’t get it outside of Spain. Whole sardines work just as well, just remember to clean them and remove the insides before grilling.

Ingredients: (for 2 pers)

  • 6-8 filleted or whole sardines
  • 1 fennel bulb
  • 1 grapefruit
  • Handful of Kalamata black olives, halved
  • Olive oil
  • 1 lemon, sliced
  • Bread and hummus or aioli to serve
    Duration: 15 minutes


  • Clean the sardines if needed and rinse them under cold water, dry with kitchen paper
  • Halve the fennel and slice it very finely, using a mandolin. Keep the fluffy green part of the fennel to use as decoration later.
  • Cut the skin from the grapefruit, remove the sections of grapefruit and cut the sections in half. You can see how to best clean a grapefruit on this video.
  • Mix the fennel with the grapefruit and halved olives. Drizzle with some olive oil, put pepper and salt and leave while you prepare the sardines. I usually do not add any vinegar in this salad because the grapefruit already adds a lot of acidity
  • Season the sardine fillets with salt and pepper and brush some olive oil on each side. Fry the fillets in a hot frying pan about 1-2 minutes on each side. You can also prepare the sardines in an oven or on the bbq if you are using whole sardines, just make sure to keep the cooking time very short.
  • Put the fennel salad on plates, garnish with the fennel green and add the sardines. Serve with a slice of lemon, some bread and hummus or aioli.

What to drink with this?

For example a nice Albarinho from Spain or Portugal would work well, or try a white blend from the Rhone region with Marsanne, Rousanne and Grenache in it to match the smoky, fatty flavor of the sardine.