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 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.