(serves 2 people)
Fresh silvery sprats are always an economical fish, and deep-fried and crisp they really are a delicacy.
DEEP FRIED SPRATS WITH A MUSTARD SAUCE
1 lb sprats (450 gr)
Groundnut oil for frying
For the mustard sauce:
1 oz butter (25 g)
1/2 oz flour (10 g)
1/2 small onion, peeled and chopped
1/2 pint milk (275 ml)
2 teaspoons dry mustard
Salt and freshly-milled black pepper
2 teaspoons lemon juice
A generous pinch sugar
2 pinches cayenne pepper
Make the mustard sauce first. Melt the butter in a saucepan and gently soften the onion in it for about 10 minutes. Now blend in the flour and cook very gently for a minute or two before adding the mustard powder. Now add the milk a little at a time, stirring after each addition, and when it’s all added, bring the sauce to boiling point and let it simmer very gently for about 3 minutes. Season to taste with salt, pepper, lemon juice and a pinch of sugar, then keep the sauce warm whilst you prepare the sprats.
First make a small incision behind a gill of each fish and gently squeeze the belly up towards the head to eject the gut, but try to keep the head intact. Rinse the fish well and dry off any excess moisture with kitchen paper before tossing in the seasoned flour. Heat the oil in a deep pan to 350°F (180°C)—to test, either use a thermometer or throw in a small cube of bread and if it turns golden in about a minute it’s hot enough. Now deep-fry the sprats for about 3 minutes—you’ll probably need to do them in 2 or 3 separate lots. When cooked, drain on crumpled greaseproof paper, keep hot and serve as soon as possible sprinkled with a little cayenne pepper and with the mustard sauce poured over.