Sprats are small, oily sea fish which swim in huge shoals in the waters around Devon. They are extremely nutritious and are frequently eaten whole without even being gutted. Sprats are very delicate so cooking them quickly and simply allows their delicious flavour to come through. A single sprat makes one satisfying mouthful, more or less, so these little fellows need to be cooked in quantity (at least 6 per person). Preparing and cooking them is the work of a few moments.
Barbecue: sprats are very good barbecued. Thread them on to long skewers, pushing the skewer up through the fish behind its head, and cramming as many on to one skewer as you can. Brush with oil and cook over hot coals for two to three minutes a side. Ideal as nibbles with a beer or a glass of wine before the main event.
To grill: preheat the grill to high and, using sharp kitchen scissors, snip a thin strip of belly from the sprats and rinse out the innards under the cold tap and dry off on kitchen paper. If you like the idea of eating the heads, as we do, then pull out the gills at this point, using thumb and forefinger, to make the heads more tooth friendly.
Now lay a piece of foil on the grill pan, oil it lightly and spread the sprats over it, season with salt and pepper and slide under the grill. Turn the fish over when they are beginning to brown and blister (after about 3 minutes) and cook the other side for 2 minutes or so.
Children are mad for them. Lemons, crusty bread and a salad are all you need.
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