A truly tasty, healthy budget bite ... Tim Pawsey photo

A few weeks before Christmas we dropped into Barbara-Jo’s Books to Cooks to take a peek at what’s hot in the culinary book world. And, as usual, we wound up picking up a couple of things that would make fun gifts—but somehow we forgot to give them away.

One was Len Deighton’s French Cooking for Men (Harper Collins $21.95, hardcover). As we wrote in the Courier, it’s “… a delightfully, tongue-in-cheek sexist and absolutely jam-packed primer from the prolific writer, (complete with easy to follow comic-style strips) for the aspiring man-chef in your life. Seriously, this may well be the best ‘back to basics’, no-nonsense French guide we’ve seen.” 

The other book we didn’t mention at the time because it’s in French—although still really easy to follow.

Sardines en Boîte, by Garlone Bardel, is a little book (literally, about 4 ins. sq.) from the popular Marabout collection (Hachette).

It’s sardine-can-packed with good and healthy ideas for the little fishies, from canapés and small plates to main courses, pizzas—and even a couple of veloutés—offered in extremely easy to prepare recipes. There’s even a few cross-cultural tastes thrown in, such as spring rolls, keftas and maki. But no sardine ice-cream. Quel domage!

Yes, we know: there’s nothing like fresh sardines, if you can get them—but most of us can’t that easily. Plus, even though this mini-tome is all about sardines, you can easily substitute anchovies. And we do … occasionally.

Perfect (anchovy) pissaladière ...

Currently we’re big on making a variation of pissaladière—sometimes with sardines, sometimes with anchovies.

We’re also inclined to cheat a little in the name of convenience. Instead of making pâte brisée from scractch, we buy ready-made, wholewheat pizza dough (from Bosa Foods), which we halve to make the thin crust that we want.

Right now it’s a toss-up as to which version we prefer. The caramelised onions are a delicious foil to the sardines, which take on a milder flavour when baked, while the saltier anchovies (that also play wonderfully with the onions and baked black kalamata olives) are more faithful to a classic pissaladière. The best version so far combines both sardines (Portuguese) and anchovies—a can of each!

Whatever your preference, either one works well with an inexpensive Syrah Grenache such as La Vieille Ferme, a good Minervois or any dry rosé.

If you’re looking for a true budget bite, this delicious, cheap and easy treat is hard to beat.