Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Recipe: Sprats in Seasoned Flour

Sustainable fishing. Where is it leading us? Where are we with it now? Well, watching tons of cod being thrown back into the sea, dead, gives us a clue. This practice known as ‘discarding’, is clearly not the best way to control stocks of Cod in our waters. However, there was an aim behind the practice. That aim, is to get our fisherman targeting less popular species.

Why are they less popular species? Do they taste bad? Are they expensive? Is there less meat on them? Are they rarer?

The answer is ‘no’, to all of the above. The reason is because people (like they always have done) are sticking to what they know. Let us just say that stocks were endless and it was guaranteed that fish would reproduce, faster than we could eat them. Would you still just carry on eating the old favourites? Where is the fun in that!? Variety is the spice of life. Luckily for those of you that like variety, there is plenty of it and the supermarkets have jumped on board because it makes them look like they give a shit! (They don’t, they just exist for profit). However you look at it, we have more variety.

I was in a well known supermarket the other day as I’d heard good things about the fish counter. It excited me to see such variety. Coley, tilapia, mackerel and river cobbler were amongst the selection. I plumped for 12 small sprats. A fish I have never eaten before. They are slightly smaller than sardines and you can eat the whole thing, head to tail. The reason being, that the bones are not fully formed and are therefore, perfect for eating. What made them taste even better (apart from my seasoned flour) is that they cost me £0.49 for 12. I ate them with smoked mackerel but double that amount and you can feed 2-3 people their main portion for under a quid!

There are no good reasons not to eat new fish, especially with this recipe for sprats rolled in seasoned flour and fried.

Sprats in seasoned flour (with optional parsley & lemon)

4 Dried bay leaves (broken into small pieces)
1/3 tsp fennel seeds
½ tsp white peppercorns
½ tsp salt
4 heaped Tbsp plain white flour


1 Tbsp Olive Oil
12 whole sprats
1 heaped tsp unsalted butter

Optional additions
½ lemon (juice only)
Small handul of finely chopped Parsley

Put the bay leaves, fennel seeds and peppercorns into a pestle and mortar or spice grinder and grind to a fine powder. Add the salt and flour to this and stir until fully combined.

Take your sprats and place on greaseproof paper or a chopping board (just to keep the mess to a minimum). Then dust your sprats generously with the flour. Turn them and dust the other side. I like to make sure the flour mix covers each fish quite nicely. This will give your fish a nice thin, crispy, ‘batter’ like texture on the outside.

Heat a large frying pan to a medium-high heat. Add your oil and swirl it to make sure it covers the pan. Put your sprats in and fry for two and half minutes on one side until golden. Turn them over gently and do the same for the other side.

About 30 seconds before the end, add the knob of butter. Toss the fish in the butter. Turn off the heat and squeeze over the lemon juice and add the parsley. Serve with buttered new potatoes or sweetheart cabbage. Or just serve them on their own as finger food with a glass of aperitif champagne. Delicious.

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