Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Whitebait Fritters

I spent many weekends of my youth whitebaiting in the Waikanae River and the Waimea Stream.

The Waimea Stream is like the "beginners guide" to whitebaiting - with you eventually graduating to the Waikanae River (bigger catches but much deeper water!).

It is a sad state of affairs - that the habitat of the whitebait has drastically reduced over time - and therefore so has the size of catches.

My first attempts at whitebaiting generally resulted in half a dozen specimens being caught - but once you get a feel for the tides and the conditions you can often catch a lot.

Whitebaiting in the Waimea stream is generally pretty basic - you place your net in the water - and wait for a wave. Then you lift your net and inspect - and so on and so on. In the meantime your legs would be snap frozen by the cold surf. In fact once I was so cold I did not even notice the tentacle of a blue bottle wrapped around my leg. It only served to warm my leg (for several hours).

Generally the lesson is - that the old codgers catch the most - and almost certainly have the best spots on the river - or stream.

Initially - I was not so keen on eating whitebait - something about all those hundreds of eyes staring at you - from within the Whitebait Fritter.

However, you grow to really love the delicate flavour.

These days whitebait is so expensive that mostly - it is only used by Lawyers to entertain their clients at the end of year party. I attended one such when I worked for the Wellington City Council. Please picture a group of uncouth Council workers (including myself) - scoffing whitebait and drinking as much as is humanly possible.  A truly blissful occasion. The Lawyers had to release the dogs to get rid of us!

Having caught whitebait myself - I can tell that - there is nothing like eating them - the same day they are caught.

And as for a recipe - just whitebait and whisked egg - and the tiniest amount of flour. Then a squeeze of lemon - and some pepper.

Truly amazing.

I wonder if it is possible to farm whitebait?


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