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Sarde in Saor

Sweet and Sour Sardines

Food writer and cookbook author Emiko Davies makes a habit of delving into historical Italian cookbooks and here she shares the recipe for this classic Venetian dish. Raisins and pine nuts were later additions to the original 14th century recipe; then, as now, the dish is best served a day or two after preparation.


  • Fresh Sardines 12, cleaned, heads and backbone removed, butterflied
  • Flour for dusting
  • Vegetable, Seed or Olive Oil for frying
  • White Wine ¼ cup
  • Raisins a handful
  • White Onion 1, finely sliced
  • White Wine Vinegar 250 ml
  • Whole Clove 1, ground or crushed
  • Coriander Seeds 1 tsp, ground or crushed
  • Freshly Ground Black Pepper to taste
  • Pine Nuts a handful

Cook It

  1. Dust the sardine fillets in flour and deep fry in plenty of oil until golden and crisp. Season with salt and set aside on some paper towel to drain until needed.
  2. Soak the raisins in the white wine to soften them. Meanwhile, sauté the white onion gently in some olive oil until transparent, then add the vinegar, pepper and spices. Let it cook for a few minutes then remove from the heat.
  3. In a small terrine or deep dish, place a layer of sardines, top them with some of the onions, some of the raisins (drained) and pine nuts, and continue layering until the sardines are used up, then top with a layer of onions, raisins, pine nuts and finish with the vinegar sauce poured over the top. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to marinate at least 24 hours before serving.
  4. Serve as part of an antipasto. These are best eaten at room temperature, removing from the fridge a couple of hours beforehand.

Recipe courtesy of Watch for Davies’ next cookbook Tortellini at Midnight to be released in March 2019.