Serves 4 as a starter, 2 as a main course
1. First make the sauce: on a chopping board, mash the anchovies with the black pepper and sugar, using a fork, until you have a rough paste.
2. Scrape this paste into a small bowl, then stir in the mustard, followed by the creme fraiche. Cover until ready to serve.
3. Now prepare the sprats: they don't need to be gutted but they should be well rinsed and patted thoroughly dry with a tea towel.
4. Then place a piece of foil in a grill pan, brush thoroughly with olive oil and sprinkle with black pepper. Lay the sprats on the foil and cook under a very hot grill until they start to brown and blister.
5. Turn over and cook until the heads and tails are going crispy and the skin is golden brown.
6. You can serve the sprats on a warmed round plate arranged like the spokes of a wheel, tails to the centre. Sprinkle with sea salt and chopped parsley and place the sauce in its bowl in the centre of the plate for communal dipping.
7. Alternatively, divide the sprats between warmed plates and spoon the sauce over. Real sprat enthusiasts eat the fish whole, heads and all. More squeamish diners may prefer to nibble around the backbone and leave the heads and tails.
8. Either way, they are most easily eaten with the fingers. Serve with buttered brown bread and plenty of napkins.
© River Cottage
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