No Mediterranean meze platter would be complete with whitebait. These tasty little snacks have their origins everywhere from Australia to Japan but I love the Italian and Greek versions best. Known as gianchetti, cicenielli or ceruses depending on the area one is in, Italian whitebait are prepared simply – either made into fritters, croquettes or floured and deep-fried whole. The latter is the version I’m best acquainted with.
Juvenile members of the anchovy, sardine or herring family, whitebait are traditionally prepared by dusting in seasoned flour before being deep-fried. Essentially a happy medium between fish and chips, whitebait have to be one of my favourite snacks to enjoy with a glass of wine. And just like chips, whitebait almost always require something to dip into.
Enter my twist on classic aioli. Here I’ve made it using good quality store-bought mayonnaise but if you’re feeling up to it, homemade is always best. By roasting juicy seedless LemonGold® lemons, one can add a citrus hit to garlicky aioli – the ideal starter to serve at your next dinner party or casual lunch.
Whitebait with Roasted LemonGold® Aioli
Prep time: 15 mins /Cook time: 10 mins /Serves: 4
You will need:
- 900g pre-frozen whitebait, defrosted
- 100g plain flour
- Sunflower oil, for deep-frying
- 50ml good quality mayonnaise (or make your own)
- 3 LemonGold® lemons
- 1 bulb of garlic
- 15ml olive oil
- Fine sea salt and black pepper
- Coarse ground sea salt and black pepper
Preheat the oven to 200°C. Slice one Lemongold® and the garlic bulb in half, drizzle with the olive oil and season with coarse salt and pepper. Roast the LemonGold® and garlic in the oven for 15 – 20 minutes or until caramelized and soft. Leave to cool before spooning out the middle fruit and finely chopping the peel of the LemonGold® and squeezing the garlic cloves from their papery skins and roughly chopping. Stir the chopped peel and garlic through the mayonnaise and season with a grind of coarse salt and pepper to taste. Fill a pot with about 4cm of oil and heat to 200°C. Rinse off the whitebait and pat dry with kitchen towel. Combine the flour and a shake of fine black pepper in dish and drop in the whitebait. Shake the dish to evenly coat each fish in flour then deep-fry the whitebait in batches, draining the fried fish on kitchen towel. Season with salt and serve the whitebait immediately with the LemonGold® mayonnaise and extra LemonGold® wedges for squeezing over the fish.