You will find fritto misto in every restaurant along Italy's Mediterranean coast. The classic ingredients are large prawns, anchovies, squid, sardines and sometimes whitebait, but the beauty of this dish is that you can use whatever is on offer at your fishmonger's.
2 whole medium squid, about 200g in total
8 fresh whole anchovies, descaled and gutted
4 fresh whole sardines, descaled and gutted
4 large raw king prawns (head and shell on)
150g fine polenta
150g plain flour
1 litre sunflower oil for deep-frying
1 unwaxed lemon, cut into wedges
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the spicy lemon mayonnaise:
250g good-quality mayonnaise
1 1/2 teaspoons chilli powder
Juice of 1/2 lemon
To prepare the squid, pull the tentacles from the body. Feel inside the body and remove and discard the 'quill' (a transparent sliver of cartilage). Wash the inside of the body and peel off the outer skin. Cut off the squid tentacles just below the eyes (discard the head and guts). Discard the small, hard beak at the base of the tentacles. Rinse the tentacles and squid body in cold water.
Cut open the body pouch of each squid along one side and score the inner side with the tip of a small sharp knife into a fine diamond pattern. Cut each pouch into quarters (lengthways then across) and the tentacles in half. Rinse the anchovies, sardines and prawns.
Put the polenta and flour in a large shallow dish or roasting tin, season generously with salt and pepper and mix thoroughly. Carefully coat the squid, anchovies, sardines and prawns in the seasoned mix.
Heat a deep-fat fryer to 180C or heat the oil in a deep pan or a wok until very hot. To test the temperature, drop a pinch of the flour mixture into the oil; it will sizzle when the oil is hot enough for frying.
Deep-fry the seafood in batches until golden and crisp, cooking the anchovies, sardines and prawns for about 1 minute and the squid for about 30 seconds. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen paper. Meanwhile, combine all the ingredients for the spicy lemon mayonnaise in a small bowl. Serve the fried seafood immediately with the mayonnaise and lemon wedges.