The suicidal sprat

Torcross is a funny little place, wedged between a freshwater lake and nature reserve, and across the road, the sea. The road winds through the village, and you risk your life crossing it at a couple of blind spots.

Torcross sea wall


The pub and restaurant at Torcross have a seawater view from one window, and lakeside from the other. Bizarrely, you see the odd pair of swans bobbing along the waves on the shingle beach – presumably they've popped over from the lake. They've got more sense to try to walk across the road, and make it over like low flying aircraft. Duck! No, it's a swan.

On our first day on this Devon trip, we popped into Dartmouth, to buy toys. I bought some watercolour bits and pieces, and Tim came away with a fishing rod and rigs. And two folding chairs.

I was tackling some watercolour painting, very badly, when Tim banged on the window and told me to come and see. I scrambled up the steps over the sea wall to see masses of glittery little fishies washed up on the shore. Beached sprats.



They're hunted by the mackerel, and groups of them get driven towards the beach. Tim and I spent some time lifting them and putting them back into the sea, before realising they were then floating, perhaps killed by the impact of landing back into the water. I do wonder what the locals made of a middle aged couple desperately trying to save small fish. The other mackerel fishers on the beach kept on fishing.

A sinkful of mackerel

By then Tim had already caught a few mackerel. A basin full in fact.

Tim wanted to make a kind of portable fish supper. Not that the classic fish and chips isn't portable, in its wrapping of paper. (What a pity it's no longer newsprint.) So this is a kind of deconstructed fish and chips. Or inside out fish and chips.


The fish is mackerel. The potato element is a kind of pancake cum rosti.


It's a lonely business



1 large scrubbbed, unpeeled

2 fillets of mackerel, rolled in flour

A seaside sauce, of 2 tablespoons horseradish sauce, 1 tablespoon of tomato ketchup.

Squeeze out the moisture

Grate the potato and squeeze the moisture out in a tea towel. Get a pan hot, with a little olive oil, lay the potato in the pan, thinly spread, forming a kind of pancake. Season. When it's holding together, and slightly coloured, turn it over and cook the other side.


Mackerel fillets

Grab a bottle

Put to one side, and sear the fish quickly in a hot pan. Roll the seared mackerel fillets in the rosti pancake, and fry again in a little butter and oil, and cook to become crispy. Cut in half, grab a bottle of white wine and sit in the sea wall. Eat dipped into the seaside sauce.

Deconstructed fish n chips



7 thoughts on “The suicidal sprat

  1. Fantastic post. I have just commented on Brian Moore’s blog where he has written a piece on mackerel fishing. Do have a look at it on
    To paraphrase my comment on his post: “The narrative brings me back to my earlier days spinning for mackerel off the back of the West Pier in Dun Laoghaire, landing the fish, gutting and cooking on a small barbecue while we sat in the evening sun.”
    Your post amplified the memory.

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