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Sardines and Anchovies in Lemon Thyme Oil - Chef Recipe by Josh Niland
Sardines and Anchovies in Lemon Thyme Oil - Chef Recipe by Josh Niland

Sardines and Anchovies in Lemon Thyme Oil - Chef Recipe by Josh Niland


"If you can find ultra-fresh sardines and anchovies, then this recipe is a must. It is critical to the texture and flavour of the fish that they are served warm, not cold, and still be raw, not cooked. To have both these beautiful fish together on one plate is more significant in my eyes than seeing truffle and foie gras together." - Josh Niland.

10 fresh whole sardines
10 fresh whole anchovies
Sea salt flakes and freshly cracked black pepper
Lemon thyme oil:
500mL good quality extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbs lemon thyme leaves or native thyme leaves


To prepare the sardines, if right-handed, start with the sardine head on your left of the chopping board, tail to the right and the backbone facing you.

I fillet these sardines with the gut in, as it is too time-consuming to remove beforehand. Make a small cut behind the head, separating the fish collar from the rest of the fillet. This gives you access to make a clean cut down the frame of the fish, removing the fillet intact in one movement of the knife, from the head to tail.

The first fillet of fish is simpler to remove as you have the support of the bottom fillet to rest on. The second is trickier, but use the chopping board for support. The fish don’t require pin boning, but cut the rib bones out of the sardines with a small knife.

Fillet the remaining sardines and anchovies. Don’t discard the bones, heads or gut of the fish as they can be made into garum.

For the oil, I prefer to use a Thermomix, but if you don’t have one, bring the oil and thyme leaves to 85 C (185 F) in a small saucepan, then blitz in a blender until fragrant. If using a Thermomix, set it at 85 C (185 F) and blend on high for 10 minutes until fragrant. Pass through a sieve lined with muslin (cheesecloth).

Arrange five of the anchovies on a warmed serving plate, then place the sardines on top. Repeat with a second plate. Season to taste and pour over enough of the oil to cover the plates generously.

Lemon juice can be added to offset the oiliness of the dish, but make sure there’s plenty of crusty bread to eat these beautiful fish with.

Credits: This is an edited extract from The Whole Fish by Josh Niland, published by Hardie Grant Books AU $55, NZ $60 and is available where all good books are sold.

Photo Credits: © Rob Palmer 2019.