The Herring family...

Herrings A smooth, slender body, with silvery skin with hints of green and blue. They range in size from 100-450g and are best grilled or baked whole, but there is a traditional Scottish recipe where they are rolled in Oatmeal and fried in bacon fat. As with all oil-rich fish, they benefit from a sharp sauce. Herrings are most popular in their various smoked and cured forms, and as Avruga – a great alternative to Caviar (see page 42).

Sardines / Pilchards

They are both the same species, which has the Latin name Sardinus pilchardus.

The smaller fish are known as Sardines and the larger, older fish are Pilchards. They range in size from 80g-150g, and are ideal for grilling whole and served as a starter or for barbecuing. Fished off the South Coast, the French Coast and the Mediterranean, they tend to prefer warmer waters. Currently most of the UK catch goes to France.

Anchovies and Sprats

Long, thin fish, usually around 10-15cm long. Mainly sold filleted and preserved in oil, as they are small and fragile and therefore difficult to transport whole. Sprats are fished seasonally around the UK coast.


Not actually a species in its own right, but the fry of other small species like Herrings and Sprats. They can be found in estuaries, shallow coastal waters, the North Sea and East Atlantic.
Fresh Whitebait are hard to get, but frozen are always available. There is only one way to cook them - whole (don’t gut or head them),dusted in seasoned flour, deep fried in oil and served with loads of lemon and parsley. ‘Devilled Whitebait’ has cayenne pepper added to the flour.