I was walking past the fish mongers the other day and they had a huge tub of fresh caught sardines for $8 a kilo.  I thought to myself “Hmmmm, wonder what I can do with those?”  They really take me back to an Italian restaurant I used to work in that would crumb them and serve them with a lemony caper sauce.  I however, had a bowl full of ripe tomatoes and the thought of crispy panko and parmesan crumbs with a whack of tantalising salsa really got the tastebud juices flowing.  Here is the end result!

Prep time:    30 Minutes                     Cooking time:     20 minutes                    $       Low Budget

Serves 2 for dinner or 4 for a light lunch or entree

Olive oil for frying

8 fresh sardines, butterflied      (if you can’t do this yourself ask the fish guy to do it, or your hubby (my choice) or there is a really great you tube vid!)

1 cup of panko crumbs*

1/4 cup of finely grated parmesan

2 tbs of finely chopped parsley

1 egg, lightly beaten

2 tbs of plain flour

Sea salt and pepper

For the salsa:

1 small red onion, finely diced

2 large tomatoes, finely chopped

1 tbs of baby capers

Juice of 1/2 a lemon

Sea salt an pepper

1 tbs of finely chopped parsley

Baby rocket leaves to serve

Extra virgin olive oil for drizzling

Lemon wedges to serve

Pre heat the oven to 180°C

To make the crumb mix place the breadcrumbs, parsley, parmesan and garlic on a large plate and then rub the mixture with your finger tips to really infuse the crumbs with all the flavours.  Season with salt and pepper.

Set yourself up for crumbing by having a little assembly line of flour, egg and crumbs.  Dust each sardine with flour and shake off any excess, then dip in the egg and then the crumb mix.  Place the crumbed sardines on a plate and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Heat a large frypan and add the olive oil.  When hot enough lightly fry the sardines on either side until golden and then put them on an oven tray lined with baking paper and pop in the oven while you make the salsa.  In the same pan add the onion and lightly fry until the onion is soft and don’t worry about the little crumby bits, they will add a beautiful flavour to the salsa.  Add the tomatoes and capers and allow the mixture to just heat through before adding the lemon juice and parsley.

Lightly toss the rocket leaves in a little extra virgin olive oil and a squeeze of lemon juice.  Arrange the rocket on a plate and stack the crumbed sardines on top.  Spoon the salsa over the top of the sardines and drizzle with a little more olive oil.  Serve with lemon wedges.

*Panko crumbs are japanese breadcrumbs that are seriously crispy.  They can be found in the Asian section of most supermarkets or your friendly Asian grocer!