Recipe: Sweet and sour Venetian sardines


This Jewish dish of sweet and sour sardines (Sarde in Saor) is a classic Venetian staple. The sardines have a distinctive flavour but you can replace them with plaice or other white fish if you prefer.

Serves: 4-6 as starter
Time: 40 mins + 2 days marinating


● 6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
● 3 onions, finely sliced
● 1 tbsp sugar
● 250 ml white wine/cider vinegar
● 30g pine nuts
● 40g raisins
● 2-3 bay leaves
● Zest of 1 small orange (optional)
● 600g small sardines, deboned and butterflied
● 6-7 tbsp plain flour, to dust the fish
● Approx 500 ml. olive/sunflower oil to fry the fish
● Salt and pepper


● Heat the olive oil in a non-stick frying pan and stir in the onion.

● Add salt, pepper, sugar and a couple of tablespoons of water.

● Cover with a lid, reduce the heat to a minimum and leave to gently sweat for 20 minutes until soft and translucent, stirring occasionally.

● Once the onion has softened add the vinegar. Cook uncovered for 3-4 minutes then add the pine nuts, raisins, bay leaves and the orange zest if using any. Stir for a final couple of minutes on medium high flame and turn off.

● Meanwhile, rinse the sardines and pat dry. Remove any extra bones on the sides. Lightly dust the fillets with flour tapping off excess.

● Heat up the oil in a frying pan and fry the sardine fillets for 2-3 minutes until lightly golden, turning them half way. Drain on kitchen paper. Sprinkle a little salt.

● To assemble, spread a thin layer of onions in a serving dish, add a layer of sardines, top with more onion mixture with its vinegar sauce and a bay leaf. Add another sardine layer then more onion, repeating until all the fish has been used up. The top layer should be onion mixture. Pour over any juice left in the pan.

● Cover with cling film or a tight lid and refrigerate to marinate for at least 2 days, ideally 3-4 days. It keeps well in the fridge for several days.

● Serve at room temperature.

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