Some people find sardines overpowering in flavour, but this cornbread crumb really mellows them out. Even if you’re not a sardine eater, you’ll love this dish. Lemon verbena is a very seasonal herb, so if it’s not available use lemon myrtle or lemon thyme instead.
- 12 cleaned and scaled sardine fillets
- plain flour, for dusting
- 1 egg, lightly beaten with 2 tbsp milk
- 1 tbsp olive oil, plus extra, to serve
- 40 g butter
- 6 leaves lemon verbena
- sea salt flakes, to taste
- 400 ml yoghurt
- 400 ml water
- 60 ml (1/4 cup) olive oil
- 3 eggs
- 180 g plain flour
- 20 g baking powder
- 60 g sugar
- pinch of sea salt
- 330 g polenta
- 1 cup finely crumbled cornbread
- 1 tbsp polenta
- pinch of sumac
- 25 g (¼ cup) walnuts, coarsely crushed
- 1 tsp fennel seeds
- 6 sprigs thyme, leaves picked
- 1 tsp red pul biber
- garlic yoghurt, sorrel leaves and lemon verbena flowers, to serve
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
To make the cornbread, preheat the oven to 160˚C. Line a 20 x30 cm cake tin with baking paper. Using a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the yoghurt, water, olive oil and eggs until well combined. Add the flour, baking powder, sugar and salt, and mix on low speed until just combined. With the motor running, slowly add the polenta and mix until smooth - the batter will be quite wet. Pour the mixture into the tin and bake for 20 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. Allow to cool.
To make the cornbread crumbs, place all the ingredients in a bowl and combine well.
Dust the sardine fillets in the flour, then dip in the egg wash before coating thickly with cornbread crumbs. Press as much as you can into the sardines to enhance flavour.
Place the olive oil and butter in a large frypan over medium heat. When the butter starts to foam, add the lemon verbena leaves and shake the pan for 1 minute or until the leaves start to crisp. Place the sardines in the pan, skin-side down first, in two batches, if necessary. Cook for 1-2 minutes or until golden and crisp, then turn and cook the other side. Drain on paper towel and sprinkle with a little sea salt.
To serve, spread a little garlic yoghurt on the base of each plate, Top with the crumbed sardines and crisp lemon verbena leaves, then drizzle with a little oil. Scatter with sorrel and lemon verbena flowers and serve immediately.
• The cornbread recipe makes more than you need, but it’s handy to have on hand and freezes well. Coarsely crumble and store in ziplock bags in the freezer for up to 3 months.