A FINE, PALE GOLDEN CRUST COVERS THE SALTY, SWEET FLESH OF THESE LITTLE FRIED FISH. THE SECRET IS IN THE SEASONING: A LIBERAL SPRINKLING OF THE BEST SALT, INSIDE AND OUT, THEN A GOOD COATING OF SEMOLINA AND FLOUR. MORE BAPTISED IN VERY HOT OIL THAN DEEP-FRIED, THE FISH ARE PERFECTLY COOKED AND SO DELICIOUS. TO EAT THE FISH, THE ADVENTUROUS HOLD THE HEAD IN ONE HAND AND THE TAIL IN THE OTHER, SINK THEIR TEETH TO THE SPINE AND REMOVE THE DELICATE FLESH WITH THEIR LIPS. THE MORE TIMID USE A KNIFE AND FORK, BUT THE RESULTING SATISFACTION IS THE SAME. DO NOT DRY THE FISH PRIOR TO PREPARATION AS THEIR NATURAL JUICES BIND WITH THE FLOUR TO MAKE THE LIGHTEST OF COATINGS. THE MOST IMPORTANT PART IS TO CAREFULLY REMOVE ALL THE FINS DURING PREPARATION AS THESE CAN BE LESS THAN PLEASANT TO EAT. WE’VE SUGGESTED A FEW SPECIES IN THE RECIPE BELOW, BUT FISHMONGERS WITH MEDITERRANEAN BACKGROUNDS ARE GENERALLY FAMILIAR WITH THIS SIMPLE STYLE OF COOKING SO THEY’LL POINT YOU IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION FOR THE TYPE OF FISH TO DEEP-FRY.
Remember not to dry the fish — the natural juices are essential for a crisp finish. Using a pair of kitchen scissors, trim all the fins from each fish.
Fill a deep-fryer or large heavy-based saucepan one-third full of oil and heat to 190°C (375°F), or until a cube of bread dropped into the oil browns in 10 seconds.
Meanwhile, combine the semolina and flour on a large flat dish. Thoroughly season each fish inside and out with sea salt flakes, then dust each with the flour mixture. Cook the fish in small batches, allowing
Remove with a slotted spoon, drain on paper towel, then season with sea salt flakes and serve immediately.
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