Life’s a Feast: Whitebait and spaghetti aglio e olio

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Good-quality whitebait needs little done to it. Subtle flavours need to be used to ensure you do not lose the integrity of this much-coveted ingredient. This week I have created a new way to make this divine ingredient go that much further around your guests – by combining it with the simplest and most basic of all pasta dishes, aglio e olio (garlic and chilli). If you do not have whitebait, the simplicity of this spaghetti recipe allows you to use it as a base for more elaborate versions by adding in such things as sundried tomatoes, marinated artichokes, olives, shredded basil and lemon zest. Old-schoolers must give this delicious deviation from the normal whitebait patties a try. Especially given I hear it has been bit of a lean season.

PREP TIME: 10 MINS
COOK TIME: 15 MINS
SERVES: 4 PEOPLE

Ingredients

Spaghetti

4-5 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon dried chilli or 2 fresh chilli, sliced thinly
4-5 tablespoons freshly chopped flat leaf parsley
100ml olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Whitebait

500g whitebait
2 cloves garlic
1 fresh chilli
4 tablespoons olive oil

Method

1. Bring a large pot of water to the boil and salt generously (should taste as salty as the sea). Cook your pasta according to the instructions – until al dente – and drain.

2. Heat a large frypan to a medium heat. Put in your dried chillies, garlic chopped very finely, and 4-5 tablespoons olive oil into a pan. Cook until the garlic is pale gold. Do not overcook or you will get a bitter flavour from your garlic. Toss your drained pasta into the pan and combine thoroughly. Sprinkle parsley through, leaving a little to garnish.

3. Meanwhile, heat another frypan to a medium-high heat and cook the garlic chilli and olive oil till nearly golden, then add your whitebait. Cook until the whitebait becomes white, probably only about 1-2 minutes. If your pan is smallish do it in two batches.

4. Mix 3/4 of the cooked whitebait through the spaghetti. And salt and pepper to taste. Divide evenly among four bowls. Top with the rest of the whitebait and garnish with a little parsley.

NB: If you like your whitebait crispy then mix it in cornflour then shake off the excess using a sieve. Fry in small batches in a hot pan with a generous amount of oil.