Walnut-crusted sardines with curds and whey

Walnut-crusted sardines with curds and whey

Dig In!
Mark Roper

This dish is a bunch of healthy ingredients made delicious and was created for a superfood challenge on MasterChef. You make your own labna, which is a kind of yoghurt cheese and you use the left-over whey to cook the sweet potato for extra flavour and goodness. The rehydrated goji berries are like blueberries in texture and give a great flavour pop. The sardines are coated in a crunchy walnut crumb.


Quantity Ingredient
125g walnuts
125ml milk
125ml natural yoghurt
450g sweet potato, cut into thin discs using a mandoline
1 tablespoon goji berries, rehydrated in hot water for 10–15 minutes until tender, drained
3 leaves tuscan kale, leaves and stems separated
60ml olive oil
2 eggs
35g wholemeal flour
8 sardines, heads and spines removed, butterflied


  1. Preheat the oven to 200°C (or 180°C for a fan-forced oven).
  2. Put the walnuts on a baking tray lined with baking paper and toast in the oven for 3–5 minutes, or until fragrant. Set aside and allow to cool. Transfer to a food processor and blitz until you have a coarse crumb consistency.
  3. Put the milk in a saucepan over medium heat. Once the milk begins to simmer, add the yoghurt and stir gently until the liquid splits and curds form. Remove from the heat and strain the whey (liquid) through a muslin-lined sieve into a clean saucepan, reserving the curds.
  4. Place the saucepan of whey over medium heat, add two-thirds of the sweet potato discs and simmer, covered, until the sweet potato is soft, about 12–15 minutes.
  5. Remove from the heat, drain and pass through a sieve or puree with a hand-held blender. Add the softened goji berries and stir to combine, season with salt and pepper and set aside.
  6. Place the 3 kale stems on a baking tray and cook in the oven until completely black, about 20 minutes. Allow to cool then crush and pass through a sieve to make a dust. Set aside.
  7. Place the remaining sweet potato discs on a baking tray lined with baking paper and cook in the oven until lightly browned and crisp, 10–15 minutes, turning halfway through cooking time. Remove from the oven and set aside.
  8. Reduce the oven to 180°C (or 160°C for a fan-forced oven).
  9. Tear the kale leaves into pieces and rub them all over with 1-2 teaspoon of the olive oil. Place on another lined baking tray and cook for 12-15 minutes or until crisp.
  10. Crack the eggs into a small bowl and lightly whisk them.
  11. Put the crushed walnuts and flour in a small bowl and stir to combine.
  12. Dip the sardines first in the egg and then in the nut mixture and then repeat to form a double coating.
  13. Fry the sardines in the remaining oil in a frying pan over medium heat, until golden and cooked through, about 1–2 minutes per side.
  14. Place the sardines on serving plates with some sweet potato purée, roasted sweet potato discs, the curds and kale crisps. Sprinkle with the kale dust, season and serve.
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