k  Iberico Ham wrapped sardines with spicy chickpeas, slow roasted tomatoes and harrisa Alioli  k

Asparagus wrapped in Iberico ham is a winning combination but you have to try fresh sardines with this crispy ham – a Spanish food heaven combination if ever there was one.


I serve these amazing morsels along side some punchy spiced chickpeas, slow roasted tomatoes and a dollop of homemade harissa alioli. The full combination makes a showstopper lunch or you can just simply serve the wrapped sardines on their own for an incredible tapas dish. Sardines are super cheap to buy so I thought it was worth splurging out on the finest ham I could get my hands on. Wafer thin slices of the ruby red wonder which is jamón ibérico de bellota, arguably one of the greatest food items in the world.


From pure breed black Iberian pigs which happily snuffle on the dusty ground for sweet acorns (known as bellota) fallen from the trees, these plump piggy’s with slender legs are known as “pata negra” because of their trademark black hooves. These hams are aged for at least three years before being released and often labelled ‘gran reserva’ to denote their age.


Slow-roasted tomatoes taste amazing with this dish – if you have time to make them from scratch I would suggest making a double batch – they are great for pasta dishes or salads, otherwise you can cheat and buy them pre-made from any good deli counter.


For the spiced chickpeas I tend go for the cooked ones in the large glass jars, easier than boiling drained ones and better than the tinned variety. This is so simple – you just smother then in spices (gochugaru or sriracha, as I’m a tad addicted to these Korean wonders) and a splash of oil and just pan a few minutes fry until browned.

The final cherry on the cake is the harrisa alioli, I was given a secret family recipe from my dear friend who said that her mother would kill me for exposing her trick – using a stick blender and a good splash of full fat milk. 30 seconds in the making as apposed to 30 minutes of arduously trickling oil drop by drop in pestle and mortar….shhhh don’t tell anyone!


Ingredients (Serves 2)

8 fresh sardines (kindly ask your fishmonger to gut and clean them)

8 thin slices best quality jamon iberico

250g chickpeas – drained (glass jar ones are best)

2 tsp ground cumin

2 tsp sweet smoked paprika

1 teaspoon gochugaru or sriracha (Korean chilli sauce)

1 tbs olive oil, plus extra to brush

1 juice of a lemon

Pea shoots or micro cress to garnish

Slow roasted tomatoes (or shop bought ones)

6 ripe tomatoes cut into quarters

2 cloves garlic sliced

olive oil

sea salt

fresh thyme

Cheats Alioli

1 tsp harissa

50ml full fat milk

75ml sunflower oil

100ml light olive oil

1 clove crushed garlic

sea salt


Heat oven to 120C. Put the tomatoes onto a baking sheet, cut sides up. Brush each lightly with a little olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Sprinkle the fresh thyme or oregano over the tomatoes. Cook for 2hrs until semi-dried. Leave to cool.

Preheat a grill or barbecue to medium-high.

Put the drained chickpeas, cumin, smoked paprika, gochugaru (or sriracha) and oil in a bowl and mix well. Now add the flavoured chickpeas to and pan and cook, stirring occasionally, for 4 minutes or until chickpeas are crisp and golden.

Wrap each sardine in a slice of ham and brush with oil. Barbecue or grill the sardines for 2-3 minutes each side until cooked through.

To make the aioli finely puree a clove of garlic with the full fat milk using a stick blender – you need it super smooth. Very slowly drizzle 200ml sunflower oil into the milk, as you would oil into a mayonnaise, until emulsified, then 100ml light olive oil (ideally not extra virgin unless it isn’t too strong). Stir in about tsp of harrisa and a good pinch of flaky sea salt, to taste

Serve the sardines on a platter with the chickpeas, tomatoes and harissa alioli topped with micro cress, peas shoots or watercres