Recipe from Senior at Large in a Sicilian Kitchen
Stuffed sardines, the poor man’s version of cucina baronale, are found all over Sicily. Lots of variations of course, but this is Sarde a Beccafico Palermitani. It was served as antipasti but could easily have been used as a main dish (secondo)
Beccafico (something like ‘fig beak’)is a small, plump bird which dines on figs all Summer. The Sicilian nobility would eat these birds complete with all the figgy guts.
The peasants were banned from eating birds destined for the Queen’s table, so they recreated the dish for themselves with sardines and stuffed them with breadcrumbs rather than innards. They filled their specialities with spices, lemon juice, pine nuts and raisins. During assembly, the tail of the fish is twisted upward in imitation of the bird’s tail. The Sicilian name of the plate recalls the bird: sarde a beccafico.