The Baltic sprat (Sprattus sprattus balticus) is a subspecies of the European sprat (Sprattus sprattus), also known as brisling or skipper. They are up to 12,5 cm long (about 5 inches), small, silvery and herring-like. The sprats are commonly marinated in a mixture of black pepper, allspice (aka Jamaican pepper), cloves, nutmeg, coriander seeds, bay leaves, salt and sugar etc. The result: spiced Baltic sprats aka vürtsikilud, a famous Estonian delicacy.
Vürtsikilud aka spiced Baltic sprats are used to make some delectable small sandwiches here in Estonia, known as kiluvõileivad (literally, sprat sandwiches). I knew they were popular, but didn't realise they're so popular. You see - I've been to four different Christmas parties during the last week, and kiluvõileivad were served at three of them. Each time these were the first to disappear off the table (yes, I did keep an eye of them to verify that). When I shared the realisation on Nami-Nami's Facebook page, then oven 300 people clicked on the LIKE-button to declare their love for kiluvõileivad :)
These aren't necessarily a Christmas food, you can serve them throughout the year, but somehow I've just noticed their particular popularity at this time of the year. You've actually seen them here on Nami-Nami before, they were part of our New Year's Eve party spread back in 2007 (see the blog post) - back then I garnished them with finely grated eggs. So I've been "guilty"of serving them during winter festivities as well :)
In any case, I thought it's a good idea to share the "recipe" with you, my dear readers. Although hard-core fans of kiluvõileivad probably filet and pickle their own fresh Baltic sprats, then you can buy rather decent prepared and canned/packed Baltic sprats in the supermarket. I use the Briis brand, made in a nearby Maardu town, so they're almost local :)
Do buy a packet or two next time you're in Estonia, ok! ;) Alternatively, you could try with Swedish "anchovies" (these are actually sprats or Baltic herrings), probably available at IKEA, but these are much sweeter in flavour.
Estonian spiced sprat sandwiches
sliced dark rye bread
butter, at room temperature
cleaned spiced sprats fillets
red onion and/or green onion tops, chopped
hard-boiled (quail) eggs
Remove the crusts of the bread and butter the bread slices. Cut into small rectangles, top with a cleaned spiced sprat fillet.
Top with either sliced or grated hard-boiled (quail) egg, then sprinkle with chopped onions.
Serve and enjoy.