25. May, 2017

Sometimes a tin of sardines does the trick

Hello everyone, here I am again and this time I want to share with you an interesting meal that one puts together when you don’t feel like having anything. Well that happen to Luisa the other day! We arrived home from a late afternoon outing in the village and I asked her, what she wanted to have for dinner, she replied “I feel like something different not too much, fresh, tasty, light and with an interesting flavour. That’s when one wonders, should I make some fried eggs, hmm no!, a French omelette, too much! Just a salad, well could be… but  something else should be added! I opened the "grocery cupboard" and alas, there it was a tin of Portuguese sardines. And “that’s” I said; I have the meal for you and sat off to prepare a green salad with cherry tomatoes to accompany the sardines. As you may Know Portugal has a long history related to the sardine canning industry. 


  • 2 teapoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 table spoon balsamic vinegar
  • Fresh cilantro
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons oregano
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 10 cherry  tomatoes, cut in half
  • 1x125g can of sardines with bones, packed in olive oil ( must be drained when opened)
  •  ½ packet mixed green salad


Whisk lemon juice, extra virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar garlic, oregano, fresh cilantro and pepper in a  bowl until well combined. Add mixed green salad ( lettuce, beluga,chicory and endive, arugula) that can be bought already prepared, cherry tomatoes, gently toss to combine. Place salad on to a plate and add the sardines. Serve and enjoy, Luisa loved it.

  • Sardines are packed full of omega 3 fatty acids EPA and DHA. More than salmon and most other seafood!
  • Sardines are a great source of vitamin D. A vitamin many of us are deficient in.
  • Sardines are one of the top sources for B12 content (behind beef liver). A vitamin vital for our metabolism and heart health. So if you're not eating liver on a regular basis, don't worry, have a can of sardines instead!
  • Sardines are high in minerals such as phosphorus, calcium, potassium and selenium.
  • Sardines are low on the food chain, meaning they have less accumulated heavy metals such as mercury that bigger fish like tuna have.
  • Finally they're a great low carb, high protein and fat food source.

This shouldn't be of any real surprise, you're eating a whole animal.

Long before tourists discovered the Algarve, the region was already known for its fish as Portimão was one of the world’s largest producers of tinned sardines. Many visitors to Portimão may not realize that the town used to have a thriving canning industry. All that remains to remind us of this activity is the wonderful Portimão Museum based in one of the old factories on the river front. Built at the end of the 19th century, the building was bought by Portimão council in 1996 and the museum opened in May 2008. It depicts 150 years of the canning industry as well as development of the local community dating from pre-historic times. Original machinery, photographic billboards, film clips and artifacts allow visitors to experience the canning process. As the fishermen arrived, a siren would sound to call workers to the factory. Everyone would rush from home regardless of the time of day or night.


Women dressed in regulation overalls, headscarves and wearing wooden clogs received the sardines from wicker baskets arriving on the pulley system that brought the fish directly from the docks. The sardines were then de-headed, gutted, washed, salted and cooked ready to be placed in tins with olive oil before finally being packed ready for export. For years the industry provided work to the local population, many of whom started as youngsters and worked all their lives at the factory.


Local Portimão-born João António Júdice Fialho started his factory in 1892, later expanding to Faro, Olhão and Madeira. His tinned fish was popular in England and sustained troops in world war 1. The other was Spanish industrialist Caetano Feu Marchena who opened his factory in 1901 (currently the Portimão Museum). Born in Ayamonte, in 1882 he developed his family’s fish salting business in Spain before moving to Portimão where he treated his workers like family, building them one of the first cooperative housing estates. Granted Portuguese nationality in 1930, Caetano Feu provided Portuguese soldiers with food and clothing while they were interned in the German camps in world war 1 and he also supported the Franco nationalists during the Spanish civil war. He died aged 63 in 1946, the victim of tick fever. 


I had never really given much thought to the history behind a tin of sardines but was amazed to learn that these two factory owners were innovative for their time, developing the local infrastructure along the river and in nearby villages. They owned subsidiary companies to build their own wooden fishing boats and packing boxes. They made and printed their own tins and had farms to produce the tomatoes and olive oil used in their sauces and even developed factories for the production of fish oil and fertilizers. Whilst other industrialists failed to invest, just seeing quick profits, Fialho and Feu were forward-thinking and self-sufficient producing two of the best known makes of tinned fish – Fialho’s ‘Marie Elisabeth’ and Feu’s ‘La Rose’.


In 1908 there were 29 canneries in the Algarve. By 1917, there were 188 with 15 based in Portimão, which was already established as an ‘exporter’ due to the knowledge the community had from smoking and salting local produce. Sadly it was not to last. From 1924 to 1934, sardines became scarce and political events, fishing quotas and rising prices signaled the beginning of the decline of the industry. Many Portuguese fishermen emigrated to the Spanish galleons that paid better wages. In 1931, Salazar’s fishing regulations forced factories to diversify to ensure workers had continuity of employment during the months when you could not catch sardines.


The Feu family resisted as long as possible even diversifying into frozen goods, but finally closed their doors at the beginning of the 1980s. Nowadays there are two canning factories left in the Algarve. The Museum celebrated its sixth anniversary this year and it was announced by Ramirez & Cia, the oldest canning factory in the world at 116 years, that they were re-launching the 112-year-old ‘La Rose’ trademark. The revamped tin design invites buyers to visit the Portimão Museum as the ‘birthplace’ of the brand and Ramirez hope that ‘La Rose’ products will once again become a gourmet product worldwide.

So now you know!