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Bob Hart’s recipe for grilled sardines

Peter 'Grubby' Stubbs
Article image for Bob Hart’s recipe for grilled sardines


There are few tastier examples of seafood being at home on a hot barbecue grill than dark, oily and delectable sardines. With walnut sauce, of course.

Whole ones are far better than the fillets, but both offer better value than most examples of premium, fresh seafood.

The half kilo of Port Lincoln sardines I bought in Melbourne yesterday cost just $17, and will deliver 4 mains or half a dozen generous entrees.

Also, these busy little fish amount to just about the healthiest fresh food available to us. The tinned ones, also, are good, but the fresh one are simply magical.

Port Lincoln sardines are hitting our fish shops or markets at the moment in a user-friendly form – cleaned and cleverly trimmed in the case of whole fish, which I prefer, or filleted. But let’s focus on the whole ones.

Consider the health benefits of this meal of fresh sardines (rich in omega-3) as, indeed, are the fresh walnuts I use in the simple sauce. Not to mention the fresh garlic which is known to be anti-inflammatory and, in certain circles, also helps to maintain social distancing, apparently.

So, try this: The trimmed whole sardines are ready to go, but I suggest you place them in a bowl, splash over the juice of a lemon and season with some sea salt. Cover and refrigerate for an hour.

Make your sauce by heating ½ cup EV olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Add 3 peeled and trimmed garlic cloves and cook them for a couple of minutes, or until lightly colored.

Tip a cup of lightly toasted walnut kernels (a minute under the grill will do) into a food processor or blender, add the garlic oil (including the garlic) and the zest and juice of a lemon. Season with salt and pepper, and pulse until combined. Thin with a splash of water if it seems a bit thick.

Now, fire up your clean, oiled grill to a tick over the 200-210C mark, dry the sardines with paper towels and brush them with a little olive oil. Season them with fresh pepper and place on the grill. Drop the lid for about 3 minutes, lift the lid and flip the sardines and grill them – again covered of course – for another two minutes.

Lift the sardines off the grill and on to a warm platter, drizzle over the walnut and garlic sauce and some chopped flat-leaf parsley. Eat.

Peter 'Grubby' Stubbs