Reading Taras Grescoe's brilliant and depressing Bottomfeeder a few years ago profoundly changed the way I ate fish. I won't begin to list what I don't eat anymore (or what I eat very, very rarely); what I do eat are oysters, wild salmon if I can find it and if I can afford it (so, basically, almost never) and all the small oilies: anchovies, sardines, mackerel. (Unless I'm in Italy visiting my mother - there I'll eat any of the local seafood, but that's another story.) And that's pretty much it.
This means I eat a lot of tinned fish. Nigel Slater made them appetizing to me, both in fish cakes and on toast: toast a piece of pain au levain, butter it generously, then mash tinned sardines with a fork and spread them on top of the buttered toast, finishing with a squeeze of lemon. It's an almost painfully delicious dinner-for-one. Gabrielle Hamilton's sardines on Triscuits with mustard are a surefire way to polish off a box of crackers and at a least a few tins of fish. We put anchovies in our tomato sauces and on homemade pizza. I mix canned wild salmon with Sriracha and eat it on toast.
The other day we were stocking up on tinned fish at Edeka (piri-piri! Princesse!) when, on a whim, I decided to get a can of Kieler Sprotten. Sprattus sprattus, if you will. (Hee!) Sprats are much smaller than sardines and they are tender beyond belief - they practically melt in your mouth at first contact. And Kieler Sprotten are lightly smoked, too. We're starting off well, aren't we, with tender, melty little fish with the barest smoky flavor? At home, we toasted a piece of one of my Berlin bread loves (das Falken from Bio Backhaus), spread it thinly with Dijon mustard and then lay a few Sprotten on top.
People. Oh my goodness. Best New Snack Ever. And ever. And ever. (If you happen to have a few cornichons lying around, they're a good chaser.) You know how tinned fish like sardines or salmon can sometimes be a little dry? Or have a few too many hairy bones (sardines, I mean)? Sprats are moist and delectable. You will literally want to pop every last one in your mouth like a greedy cat and swallow. We politely shared a tin, but it was rather clear that next time each person gets their own. These little fish are delicious.
I love discovering grocery store gems. Sprattus sprattus!