Sardines are baby pilchards - long, thin, silver, oil-rich fish. Sardines are a sustainable choice of fish, rich in omega-3 fatty acids.
Sardines are best when cooked near where they're caught - they don't travel well. They're available throughout the winter but are at their best in spring. Sardines are usually sold whole, whether fresh, frozen or canned; it's worth paying a premium for good-quality canned sardines. Sardines from Portugal, Spain and France are particularly good.
Bought fresh and whole, sardines are ideal for grilling and barbecuing. Remove the scales by holding the fish under running water and brushing it from tail to head between your finger and thumb, then cook until the skin is crisp and charred and the flesh comes away easily. Sardines are delicious hot or cold, either served with robust tomato sauces that counteract the oiliness of the fish, or dressed with butter, lemon and fresh herbs and served with boiled potatoes.