Heard of these little fishes, Sprats? Sprats, are a slightly oily fish,and in my opinion, far tastier than the White Bait. From Mid September, these little fishes are in season; not to big or not to small perfect at this time of the year.
This seasonal fish is relatively cheaper than white bait and I am surprised, so overlooked. As they are just slightly larger than white bait, I much prefer them to be gutted. A job I am only too happy to perform with my trusted Henkel in my hand. I hate the idea of guts and eyes, still attached to the fish before being consumed. I take my time and gut them and carefully remove the eye balls too. As for the small tail, it is left intact; once lightly fried, gives a lovely crunch when bitten into. This whole young fish is edible, bones and all.
The body of the fish is scored gently (but not right through), so the spices penetrate into the fish. Once cleaned and gutted, wash them out well in cold water and drain.
As for the spice mix, I do not use a pre made mix, as it’s a dry spice mix and very easy to put together. I must confess, my spice mix combination changes every time I make these. At times, made them with more chilli powder and no black pepper; as for this batch, it is made with a mix of 2 teaspoons of Kashmiri chilli powder, 1 teaspoon each of Ginger powder, Garlic Powder, ground Cumin, ground Coriander and dried Coriander leaves. A quarter teaspoon of Turmeric powder and half teaspoon of ground black pepper and sea salt. Mix well and sprinkle on the little fishes generously. This mix was enough for 400g of Sprats.
Allow to marinate, at the least, for 2 hours.
Heat a wide, flat bottomed non stick Pan and place enough Sunflower oil to shallow fry the Sprats, and do so carefully in batches, once the oil in hot. Cook them for 2 minutes or less on each side, carefully turning them. Remove and fry any more batches. Once all the fish has been fried; lower the heat and in the remaining oil, quickly pour in juice of half a lemon and a handful of freshly chopped Coriander, quick stir and add the fried fish to coat in the lemony oil.
Serve immediately. It makes a good addition to a tapas meal.