Three Ways with Herring

by Elizabeth Atia -

I had my first taste of kippers yesterday.

I admit I was skeptical at first. That whole tiny little bones thing has put me off from eating herring for years! It turns out that my fears were unfounded - the bones, when cooked, are perfectly edible and you don't even notice they are there!

The sun was shining brightly down upon us yesterday and so a friend of mine and I decided to take advantage of the fine weather. We took our children out adventuring and for some outdoor cooking in the ruins of an old stone cottage. The ruins of old stone chimneys make for great outdoor kitchens!

There is something intensely satisfying about cooking over an open fire. Something primal. It adds a smokey seasoning to the food that you just can't recreate at home. The fresh air, sun, woodsmoke - perfect bliss!

My first taste of kippers - salted and smoked herring - absolutely heavenly! The crispy skin, the tender smoked flesh, the smokey salty flavour - it was so mouthwateringly moreish!

I served our fried kippers with some baby new potatoes which I'd boiled and cooled at home first. After cooking the kippers in the pan, I wrapped them in foil and placed them next to our fire to keep warm. Butter was added to the cast iron pan and it sizzled away with the kipper juices left in the pan. The potatoes were fried until nice and crispy, sprinkled with some fresh parsley and then served with the fried herring, a lemon wedge and a piece of wheat farl from the Walls bakery, toasted by the fire.

Simple but delicious!

It's herring season.

I work part time in our village community co-operative. Folk have been coming in and clearing the shelves of vinegar. Fresh herring has been arriving in the weekly fish order and selling out right away.

Working in a village shop gives me a great opportunity to talk food with people. Mhari Moncrieff Drozdowska is one of these people - she was making up some potted herring one afternoon, and of course I asked a million questions.

Herring was always traditionally eaten at our house around summertime when the family went out fishing leisurely.

Mhari has kindly shared with me three recipes her family makes with herring - marinated herring, potted herring and fried herring.

The marinated herring was originally from a pelagic fisherman from Whalsay, while the fried herring is how her mother cooks it. Some folk fry their herring fillets with oatmeal, but Mhari prefers it fried with flour with a sprinkle of vinegar over the top before eating and served with buttered potatoes.

Three Ways with Herring

Course: Main

Marinated Herring
  • fresh herring - (split and skinned)
  • salt and pepper -
  • clear vinegar - 2 or 3 cups
  • sugar - 2 or 3 cups
  • onion - 1 (finely sliced)
  • peppercorns -
  • bay leaves -
Potted Herring
  • fresh herring - (split and skinned)
  • clear vinegar - 1/2
  • water - 1/2
  • -
Fried Herring
  • fresh herring - (filleted)
  • flour -
  • salt and pepper -
  1. To prepare the marinated herring: season the fish with a little salt and soak in water for 6 hours before preparing the marinade. Heat the vinegar, sugar, onion, peppercorns and bay leaves in a pot until the sugar dissolves. Do not boil! Leave the mixture to go cold and then drop in the herring. Leave for 24 hours in the fridge. Enjoy!
  2. To prepare the potted herring: season the fish with salt and pepper and roll up, pinning into place with a toothpick. Place in an ovenproof dish and cover with equal parts of vinegar and water. Cover with foil and bake at 180 C for 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake for a further 15 minutes so that the fish browns. Serve with salad.
  3. To fry herring: Mix pepper with some flour and add a big pinch of salt. Coat the herring with the flour mixture and shallow fry in a pan. Serve with buttered tatties.
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