It´s Not POSH but It´s BECKS with a smoky bit on the side

It is the size rather than the genus that is significant

I had almost forgotten about whitebait.When I started going to restaurants 35 or more years ago this was "THE" restaurant starter. Now it seems to have disappeared from menus altogether.Until last summer, when to my surprise I found them here in the Algarve on the starter menu of one of our favourite beach side restaurants, Cha com agua salgada.
They have now become so unfamiliar that some of you may need me to tell you what whitebait are or is. Whitebait are just small fish, the original "small fry" and that is exactly how you cook them.And it is the size rather than the genus that is significant.Things are changing and on a recent trip to the supermarket I noticed the chest freezer bulging with bags of do it every which way whitebait.The fish comes frozen now, in bags which is straightforward enough.
Cooking is minimal,they are deep fried and eaten whole. The whitebait are dredged in flour (deviled whitebait being tossed in flour heavily dusted with cayenne)plunged into hot oil,piled on a plate and served with bits on the side like tabasco mayo and parsley.
I wasn´t born with David Beckham´s left foot but my right arm is strong as an ox and made for what a right arm is for, raising a beer or two with a snack of whitebait.

A Becks with Whitebait, 
cumin salt and smoky mayonnaise
This truly international beer with its distinctive full-bodied taste, slightly fruity undertones and a firm crispness is a perfect pairing for seafood dishes and in particular this clean tasty snack
Serves 4
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 lime,finely grated rind only
1 tablespoon smoked sea salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper

For deep frying
sunflower oil
300gm small whitebait
75gm( 1/2 cup )plain flour
To serve: lime wedges

Smoky mayonnaise
150ml olive oil
50 ml extra virgin olive oil
2 egg yolks
1/2 teaspoon dijon mustard
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 small clove of garlic,finely chopped
1/2 tsp smoked paprika

Dry-roast cumin in a frying pan over high heat, stirring continuously, for 20 seconds or until fragrant. Transfer to a mortar, cool slightly, then, using a pestle, finely grind. Add rind, smoked sea salt and freshly ground white pepper and combine.
For smoky mayonnaise, combine oils in a jug. Process remaining ingredients in a food processor until smooth, gradually add oil mixture, one drop at a time, then in a thin steady stream until smooth and emulsified. (If mixture becomes too thick, thin with a little hot water before adding more oil.) Season to taste with smoked sea salt and freshly ground white pepper. Makes about ¾ cup. Mayonnaise will keep refrigerated for 1 week.
Preheat sunflower oil in a deep-fryer or large, deep saucepan to 180C. Combine whitebait and flour in a bowl, season to taste and toss to coat. Sift excess flour from whitebait with a coarse sieve. Fry in batches, for 5 minutes or until crisp and golden, drain on absorbent paper and season with cumin salt. Serve with mayonnaise, cumin salt and lime wedges to the side.


  1. One of my earliest memories is being allowed to snack on my mother's when she ordered it at a restaurant, although in those days I couldn't bear to eat the eyes . . . now all bets are off. This is a wonderful recipe . . . can't wait until summer (that's if we get one) - sitting outside with this and a couple of bottles of chilled beer . . . although for me these days, it is Adnams East Green all the way!


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