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How to Prepare and Cook Sprats

Bringing back an old favourite

I love sprats, they’re much underated and nobody seems to bother with them on their menus. This is a shame, sprattus sprattus is a small, delicate fish which, when grilled with some lemon makes for a great summer dish. They are simple to prepare but don’t do what I do and order 5kg/10lb of them in one go. That’s a lot of sprats to head and gut and if you must then make sure you live alone. I’ve smelt better it has to be said.

These little beauties were caught of the Cornish coast, they favour the Baltic waters and are common around the Mediterranean, Norway and Sweden where they are treated in much the same way as sardines, pilchards and whitebait. I have come across recipes for smoked sprats which is a bit of a German/Dutch thing I believe but have never tried them. Personally I like them cooked very simply and shall post a recipe for them in a few days.

Here’s the key question; should you leave the head/bones on a sprat before cooking? Well, if I were at home then I would indeed leave the head on, why not? For a restaurant presentation or a first date :mrgreen: then I’d remove them to be polite. I do gut them and pull away any larger bones but after giving them a wash that’s about it. They can be filleted as for anchovies and I might have a go at salting some (I’ve just thought of that and congratulated myself for thinking of it) and shall let you know the outcome.

Don’t overcook them whatever you do. Rub them with some olive oil, sprinkle with rock salt and cracked pepper and maybe a little fresh oregano. You need some fresh lemon, a little dried chilli and maybe some fresh tomato sauce. Recipe to follow.

Sprats

19 Comments

  1. Cid says:

    Miles,

    I know already that I too would enjoy eating these fish although I’d be the first to admit my filleting skills leave a lot to be desired. Presumably by the time a box of fish like the one above is filleted, I’d be an expert…. not that I’m volunteering :)

    This reminds me that I’ve yet to find out if the outlet in Boston has freshly caught fish for sale, so must chase that one.

    Super photo.

    Cid

    September 1, 2008 @ 10:37 am

  2. miles says:

    Cid,
    You soon get the hang of it-trust me, I’m a fish filleter :)

    Miles

    September 1, 2008 @ 2:21 pm

  3. Cid says:

    Miles,

    Be highly suspicious if you hear of a customer asking to choose her sprats individually and taking ages over it :)

    Cid

    September 1, 2008 @ 2:51 pm

  4. cyndi says:

    Hi, Nice information abt the Sprats. I am actually wondering if you could advice me how to cook dried sprats? I would prefer to cook this as a soup to get its full nourishment of Calcium? :D I have this packet of salty dried sprats but not sure how to make it :(

    Even if its a friend recipe its ok but i want it to be soft so that my 5 yr old daughter could bite without any fuss. ha ha ;)

    Thanx a lot.

    March 5, 2010 @ 1:44 pm

  5. cyndi says:

    Hi Miles..sorry i meant “fried recipe” not friend. hehe :)

    March 5, 2010 @ 1:45 pm

  6. miles says:

    Cyndi,
    Welcome to the site and thank you for your comment. The only thing I could really suggets is using the dried sprats as a flavour enhancer in a soup or sauce (i.e tomato sauce/soup) rather than as a stand alone recipe. You could fry them but I would go for using it as a salt replacement in a number of dishes so your daughter gets slowly accustomed to them. They would be good with vegetables such as ratatouille, broccoli or cabbage too, mash them into a pesto or some creamy mashed potatoes or celeriac.
    If I come across a recipe for them in their ownright then I’ll let you know.
    Hope this helps a little.
    Kind regards
    Miles

    March 5, 2010 @ 4:58 pm

  7. keith says:

    whoops added the spam protection literally, duh!

    Just bought some srats as looked like a different way to get some oily fish into my diet, was thinking of frying them and then adding to a light tomato suace with a couple of poached eggs, just not sure on the filletting, head & tailing of them not a lover of bones but sounds as if you can do either with or without?

    Any advice please?

    October 12, 2010 @ 1:15 pm

  8. miles says:

    Keith,
    Welcome to the site, as I mention you can leave them or pull them away from the body quite easily. Personal preference really.

    Regards
    Miles

    October 12, 2010 @ 5:14 pm

  9. Terry says:

    Hi Kieth and Miles
    Just had a snack of some sprats, so easy to prepare, I am 76 yrs young my mother and me loved this tasty snack every week my wife didn’t like them at all, I just gently pull off head and the gut will usually come away with head, then wash pat dry put into a food bag with seasoned flour shake off excess fry in hot oil and butter for about 2 or 3 mins, you find back bone comes away easily any small bone can be eaten, Enjoy
    Regards Terry

    December 10, 2010 @ 3:29 pm

  10. miles says:

    Terry,
    Welcome to the site and thanks for taking the time to comment. Great advice there which will be greatly appreciated by all those who read this post.
    Thanks again Terry

    Miles

    December 10, 2010 @ 5:11 pm

  11. kim says:

    Just bought a load of sprats for the first time, going to try Terrys method of cooking. I am skint today and they were only 1.50 out of Morrisons I’ve 4 children so hopefully they will love em

    October 24, 2011 @ 12:21 pm

  12. miles says:

    Kim,
    Welcome to the site, glad you found the sprats and us! Good luck with them, hope you and your children enjoy them.
    Kind regards
    Miles

    October 24, 2011 @ 6:44 pm

  13. Sam says:

    They look great, don’t often see them here.

    I saw a technique where you cut off the head from the top of the fish downwards, then in the same motion slice off a tiny strip from the belly.

    Head and guts then all come out and when you have done a few this gets really fast.

    I like keeping the heads on but this gutting techniques is so much faster.

    S.

    October 25, 2011 @ 9:39 am

  14. Luce says:

    Can they be pickled like anchovies? I lived in Spain and boquerones were part of my daily munch! Missing them like crazy and would be lovely if I could find a cheap alternative here
    Thanks
    L

    November 1, 2011 @ 4:53 pm

  15. miles says:

    Luce,
    Welcome to the site, I see no reason why not, in fact I think they’d be delicious.
    Kind regards
    Miles

    November 1, 2011 @ 5:07 pm

  16. Luce says:

    Also - I’m doing them heads off for the family. Would the heads make a good stock?

    November 1, 2011 @ 5:42 pm

  17. miles says:

    Luce,
    No, not really…a bit murky really-best off with white fish for that.

    Miles

    November 1, 2011 @ 10:32 pm

  18. Liz says:

    Wash sprats then put whole in a bowl with a tablespoon of water and a good couple of sloshes of malt vinegar. Cook in microwave for 1.5 mins or until flesh falling off … scrape flesh off while eating them - very easy, delicious and healthier than frying!

    November 8, 2011 @ 2:57 pm

  19. miles says:

    Liz,
    Welcome to the site, thanks for posting your recipe-I haven’t heard of that before.
    Many thanks
    Miles

    November 8, 2011 @ 10:44 pm

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