The Herrings are Here!
By Lyn Funnell.
At last the herrings have arrived on the Hastings coast. They’re several weeks late this year as the weather has been too warm for them.
Herring is Old German for Multitude. The shoals have always been huge, although they’ve declined in numbers over the years. They’re an oily fish, rich in vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids.
They’ve been an important food for thousands of years as they’ve always been cheap and plentiful and they can be preserved in several different ways, and will keep for months.
The herring trade provided work for thousands for many years.
I bought seven pounds for £5 on Hastings seafront, took them home, and worked on them at once while they were fresh.
A lot of them had roe in their stomachs. These are in the freezer and will be smoked and made into the Greek starter Taramasalata.
They’re also delicious gently fried and served on toast, or battered and fried.
Some of the fish went straight in the freezer, and a couple were covered in vinegar (I used cider vinegar with honey) and placed in the fridge in a plastic box with a lid on. The vinegar will cook them and they’ll be lovely as a starter or as nibblies on toast or with crusty bread.
I filleted the rest and layered them with salt, then covered them with greaseproof paper in a large plastic box. Within hours they’d made a brine.
After a couple of days I removed four of them. They were fine. My preserving is working!
They need to be soaked and rinsed well as they’re very salty.
I set up a makeshift smoker in my wok.
Place a small layer of wood chips or sawdust, preferably oak, in the wok. Put a wire rack on top, not touching the wood, and lay the fish on the rack. Cover well with tinfoil and turn the heat on as low as possible. You want to smoke the fish, not cook it or it will fall to bits.
After a minute or so, you’ll smell a lovely smoky smell and probably see it escaping between the foil.
I’m still experimenting with smoking, but I smoked the fish for half an hour and that was successful.
You can add herbs and even tea leaves. I added a tiny bit of rosemary.
The fish smelled like kippers, but much better as they weren’t as strong and overpowering as kippers often are.
I made a kipper pate with one of the fish. There are many recipes available but this is mine.
An equal weight (approx.) of creamy goat’s cheese.
A dash of Worcestershire Sauce.
A shake of parsley
A dash of lemon juice.
Remove as many bones as you can, using tweezers.
Blitz the mixture until smooth.
Serve with toast or in a salad.
Obviously it has to be kept in the fridge. The flavour has improved every day. It really is delicious!
The remaining three fish I made into kipper fishcakes.
Again, ingredients are approximate. You don’t have to be too accurate.
These are peasant dishes and they used what they had.
An equal amount of cooked boiled potatoes
2 tablespoons of flour
1 onion, chopped
A dash of tomato ketchup
A shake of parsley.
A shake of black pepper. No salt!
Remove as many small bones as possible and blitz all the ingredients together.
Scrape into a bowl and leave in the fridge to harden up before rolling into balls and flattening them, then coat with breadcrumbs and shallow fry for about 5 minutes a side until golden and crips on the outside, but still soft inside.
Serve with chips or a jacket potato and salad.
There are also some herring curry recipes. You can find them online.