Potted sprats

Mark Houghmans recipe makes for a simple quick starter or light lunch if you cant get sprats, whitebait works well, too
Potted sprats
  • Rating:
  • Serves: 4
  • Cook Time: 10 minutes
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Effort: easy


  • 20 fresh sprats
  • 250 g butter
  • 75 g finely chopped shallots
  • 3 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp chopped, fresh chives
  • 25 g capers
  • 2 tsp chopped, fresh parsley
  • cracked black pepper, to taste
  • olive oil, for brushing
  • bunches watercress
  • 4 slices foccacia bread
  • wedges lemons, for garnish

Tips and Suggestions

Ensure your sprats are fresh the scales should look shiny and the eyes should be clear and full.


1. Take the heads off all of the sprats.

2. Melt the butter in a pan with the shallots until foaming, then add 16 of the sprats to the pan. Cook for 2-3 minutes, then add the white wine vinegar, chopped chives, capers and half of the chopped parsley. Season, to taste, with cracked black pepper.

3. Heat a griddle pan until smoking, brush the remaining sprats with olive oil and grill for 3-4 minutes on both sides, or until golden-brown and cooked through. Set aside.

4. Line four ramekins with greaseproof paper, making sure it extends above the edge by about 3cm/1in. This way you can lift your potted sprats out of the ramekin and present them complete with the paper.

5. Place a few sprigs of watercress at the bottom of each ramekin and then place one of the grilled sprats in each ramekin with its tail sticking out of the top. Divide the cooked sprats between the four ramekins, pressing down firmly, then chill in the fridge for at least three hours, or until set.

6. Toast the focaccia and cut into fingers.

7. To serve, lift the potted sprats out of the ramekin by pulling up the greaseproof paper, then place on one side of a serving board. Arrange the remaining watercress on the other side, stack the focaccia fingers next to the watercress and serve with a wedge of lemon dipped in the remaining chopped parsley.

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