The very best way to cook whitebait is to simply coat them in self-raising flour then drop straight into a pan containing butter and a little oil. Butter tastes better than oil but is inclined to brown too quickly if you don’t pay close attention. Just a couple of teaspoons of oil and butter is all that’s required.
Be careful with the heat. If the butter looks to be getting a bit dark lift the pan off. Cooking time will be just a couple of minutes at most. Just long enough to give the little fish a crisp batter. All that’s needed is a sprinkle of salt and perhaps a little pepper, maybe even a squeeze of lemon juice if you wish. The taste is fantastic.
The advantage of making these whitebait chips instead of fritters is that you get the full delicate flavour of the whitebait instead of the overpowering taste of egg and too much flour.
The downside is that you need more whitebait because the recipe isn’t being “padded out” to make a little whitebait go a long way. Though you could place the bait cooked by this method on fresh buttered bread to make a tasty sandwich.
Whitebait chips are even better if cooked on the riverbank. The outside air makes them taste even better.
I was talking to an old mate of mine recently, who is now in his 80s, he told me that when he was young the whitebait was so thick in the Grey River his mother was able to catch heaps with just a bucket. He also told me of huge shoals that would stretch for some distance along the river like an enormous snake winding around the wharf piles.
He remembers the way they would cook their whitebait back then in the 1940s and 50s. They would place a knob of butter in a frying pan and then pour in a pint of whitebait straight into the pan. No egg or flour was used at all. They would easily catch large amounts of bait – by today’s standards – in the Grey. He remembers kerosine tins, which held about 20 litres full to the brim, at home. In those days they had no refrigeration and much of it would eventually be feed to the chooks or buried in the garden.
This season, instead of making patties, I have been cooking my whitebait by coating in flour and dropping them into a pan of melted butter as described above. Give it a try. I’m sure you’ll enjoy it. More whitebaiting tips.
This post was last modified on 15/10/2016 12:23 pm
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