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a yummy substitute for maccas: sardine and fennel salad

Image: Rolf Krahl

Image: Rolf Krahl

I hate myself a little for admitting this but there is not a day that goes by where I don’t wish I was skinnier. The feminist in me rankles at this – so many times have I had internal rants that go something like ‘I will not conform to an unattainable ideology of beauty blah blah blah’. This is all very well and good but given that last year things got so bad I started avoiding mirrors, I realised something needed to be done. I either needed to shed some kilos or do a brain overhaul. In the end I did a little of both.

Like it or not, these insecurities are so deeply ingrained in my psyche that denying them or dismissing them as unreasonable is no longer helpful or even relevant. I wouldn’t go up to a person with cancer and say ‘can you quit it with the malignant tumours, they’re such a downer. You just need to have a more positive outlook on them and they’ll disappear’. Not just because that would be wickedly insensitive but because it simply doesn’t work that way. The brain is a difficult beast. We create well-trodden neural highways in our brain and cyclical thoughts that cause insecurities to run rampant and shit on everything.

So the next time one of these gremlins pops up, I don’t bat them away. I look at it calmly and ask, ‘why do I feel this way? Is this actually true? Does this help me in anyway or is it just designed to make me want to eat raw vegetables whilst looking forlornly at the person at the next table’s steak sandwich?’

Does this work? Sometimes. It feels a lot better than fat shaming myself or looking at my slender friends consuming carbs galore and wondering how the fuck they are able to do that. What works best for me is coming back to my tried and true philosophy: food needs to be equal parts nutritious and delicious. I do sincerely believe that Nigella looks amazing with a tummy.

My point is this: it’s bad enough feeling bad. I don’t then want to feel bad about feeling bad. I want to combat them by going to Burlesque shows and giving the finger to misogyny. And I definitely don’t want to eat boring food. I want it all and I will continue to approach each day as a balancing act.

So, here is my recipe for Sardine and Fennel Salad. This kind of combination of food is perfect for days when you can’t keep your head straight – high on flavour and won’t make you feel guilty (on a side note, when did we decided to assign moral values to food?! Why is one type of food “good” and another type “bad” or even “evil”? It’s a fucking meal not Daenerys Targaryen freeing slaves).


Olive oil
4 fresh sardines, boned and scaled
2 tsp fennel seeds
1 tbsp fresh grated ginger
½ tsp cumin
zest and juice of 1 lime
½ bunch fresh coriander, chopped
1 cup green olives, pitted
½ preserved lemon, chopped
1 Lebanese cucumber, thinly sliced
3 radishes, thinly sliced
1 fennel, thinly sliced, leafy tops chopped
Lemon juice


1. In a mortar and pestle, bash the fennel seeds, ginger, cumin, lime zest and coriander with some olive oil. Once a paste has formed, rub over the sardines.

2. Heat a pan over high heat then add the sardines skin side down. Cook for two minutes then flip them over (be careful with this as they can fall apart quite easily) and cook for 1 minute. Squeeze some lime juice over the top.

3. Place the olives, preserved lemon, cucumber, fennel, and radishes in a large bowl. Add the lemon juice and another splash of olive oil and season with pepper (you most likely won’t need any salt).

4. Divide the salad between two plates and add the sardines. Serve with extra lime wedges.

Serves 2

This recipe was inspired by a recipe from Jamie Oliver: ‘Jamie Does Spain, Italy, Sweden, Morrocco, Greece, France.’

One thought on “a yummy substitute for maccas: sardine and fennel salad

  1. “It’s a fucking meal not Daenerys Targaryen freeing slaves.” Best line ever. Agreed, the moral values we place on food leave a lot to be desired. I’ve found it also depends a lot on how people perceive what you’re eating to be a reflection on yourself, example: if an overweight girl eats a salad, she must be on a diet. If that same overweight girl eats a curry wurst (Google it, it’s beyond delicious) she’s let herself go/ failed somehow. Reverse those scenarios with a thinner girl and perhaps we’d see the opposite: thank goodness she doesn’t eat like a rabbit all the time. Shaming either side is atrocious. Having been that girl on both occasions, it never ceases to amuse and sadden me the moral and societal failings we perceive as being present in what we place in our mouths. Great article, can’t wait to try out your recipe!

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