Sardines and Broccoli in Sambal


At the beginning of lockdown, I signed up to an email newsletter called Vittles, encouraging food writers to contribute their thoughts, knowledge, and recipes on anything food-related. I’ve found it a really interesting way to learn more about different food and the cultures associated with them, as well as some great new recipes.

This week, it was an article on Sambal, an Indonesian spicy condiment. There are thousands of varieties across Indonesia, from officially-recorded and recognised recipes, to family recipes passed down generations, and it spreads far beyond Indonesia to reach surrounding islands too. Essentially, it is a spice paste, used for anything from cooking with vegetables, serving with rice, or even eating with eggs for breakfast.

This recipe is, therefore, my take on a sambal. It’s not authentic, simply a recreation using some of the ingredients I usually have access to. It has also been a great way to use up the surplus of chillies we have ended up with from our surprisingly active chilli plants. If you also have a surplus of chillies to use, you can make extra – once it’s been cooked down in the pan, put it in a sterilised jar and keep in the fridge. You can also adapt it to your taste, putting fewer or more chillies in depending on how hot you’d like it to be. This is also served with Kekap Manis, an Indonesian version of soy sauce, which is much thicker and sweeter. You can buy this easily from supermarkets, and is great to have as an extra condiment.

I like to serve this with a hunk of bread with butter, but you could also serve with steamed rice, or as it is for a healthy, no-carbs meal.

Sardines and Broccoli in Sambal

This recipe takes approximately 30 minutes, and serves two people.

You will need:

  • 4 red chillies, deseeded and roughly chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1/2 shallot, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
  • Handful of cherry tomatoes (about 6, or 100g)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Pinch of brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp lime juice
  • 4 sardine fillets
  • 1 tablespoon kekap manis
  • Medium broccoli
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil

Begin by making the sambal. In a food processor, blitz the red chillies, garlic clove, shallot, ginger, cherry tomatoes, salt, sugar and lime until smooth. Taste and season with more salt , sugar or lime if needed to bring out the flavour.

Next, prepare the broccoli by chopping the head into small bitesized-pieces. When you get to the stalk, chop any leaves or hard bits off to leave the crunchy middle, and slice this into bitesized pieces too.

Heat a medium frying pan (or saucepan) over a medium heat and add the sambal paste. Cook for about 5 minutes, moving around the pan with a spatula to prevent it from sticking. You will start to see the liquid cooking off. At this point, add the broccoli to the pan with 1 tablespoon vegetable oil and fry for about 10 minutes, until the broccoli is well-coated in the sambal and beginning to soften and brown on the outside, but maintaining a little crunch.

Whilst the broccoli is cooking, heat a large frying pan over a medium heat and add the remaining tablespoon of vegetable oil. As the pan heats, sprinkle a little salt over the sardine fillets. Once heated, add the sardine fillets skin-side down to the pan. After 5-10 minutes, the edges will start to look crispy and the fish will be almost cooked apart from the top. Drizzle the tablespoon of kekap manis into the pan and quickly turn the fillets over so they are now skin side up. Cook for 2 more minutes, then take the pan off the heat and leave to one side.

Whilst the sardines are still in the pan, plate up the broccoli and drizzle with a little more kekap manis and a squeeze of lime. Top with the sardine fillets and serve with a wedge of lime.

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