A traditional, inexpensive and abundant fish; herrings not only provide a creamy, firm flesh and gutsy flavour but are also considered to be richly nutritious – full of omega 3s and vitamin D.
Herrings, once the food of the poor, are considered a great delicacy in numerous European countries, particularly Holland and Scandinavia, but it’s a different story for the ‘silver darlings’ in Britain. Once a staple fish in these isles, the humble herring has somehow become something of a lost and underrated food in need of wider recognition.
In the UK, herrings are predominantly found in the shallow and mild waters of the North Atlantic with the majority of stock being fished from Scottish and Northern Irish waters. When buying them look for the fillets with sparkling, silvery, steel-blue skin and plump but firm flesh as these will be lovely and fresh. They are in season for a very short period of time – from now until around early June.
Pickled herrings make a great choice for lunch or dinner – perfect with dark bread and/or a creamy potato salad.
Alternatively roll fresh herrings in oats and fry them in bacon fat.
4 fresh herring – descaled, gutted & filleted
30g fine sea salt
375ml cider vinegar
3 allspice berries
3 black peppercorns
1 fresh bay leaf
½ tbsp light brown sugar
½ small red or white onion, very thinly sliced
Dissolve the salt in 250 millilitres of cold water. Add the herring fillets and leave for 2-3 hours. Put all the pickle mixture ingredients into a saucepan, bring to the boil and simmer for one minute. Remove from the heat and allow to cool completely. Drain the herring fillets from the brine and pat dry on kitchen paper. Pour the pickle mixture over the herrings and refrigerate for two days before eating. They are best eaten between 5-10 days but will keep in the fridge for two weeks. Serve with rye bread, potato salad and sweet mustard.
Terry’s latest food venture, Saltwater Fish Co at Fenwick Food Hall, has a wet fish counter and staff who can advise on all aspects of cooking fish.