#238 Grilled Bloaters

For all you heathens out there today is Good Friday. Which, of course, means that Jesus got killed or some such other scrape. I am obviously in the heathen camp. Anyway, the point of all this is one should eat fish on Good Friday. I assume this is because we are at the end of the 40-day fast we have all been on and fish was always allowed on fast days. These rules were bent rather a lot in days of yore: ducks, geese and beaver were all added to the list. So as it is Good Friday, here’s a fish recipe with some of the fish I had delivered from The Fish Society.

Bloaters are cured herrings, like kippers, only the cure is much more subtle. They are also gamier because they are cured whole and ungutted, causing them to bloat as they hot cure in the smokehouse. I’ve never had bloaters before, and was looking forward to trying them. This recipe seemed to most appropriate to begin with as I would get to taste pure unadulterated bloater.

The bloater before prep

Start by getting your grill very hot. Whilst you are waiting for it to hot up, gut the bloater by cutting down its belly, this is not a horrible experience as they are quite dry. If there are any roes Griggers says to keep them for another dish. Now cut the head off and make slashes down both flanks of the fish and spread over with softened butter. Now simply grill for three minutes per side so that the skins go all bubbly and crispy. Serve immediately with brown bread and butter and a lemon wedge.


#238 Grilled Bloaters. These were very nice indeed. The cure as expected was much more subtle and less salty than kippers, which meant you could eat more; always a good thing in my book. They are also much less fishy and pungent, so I am surprised that they have gone out of favour somewhat as they are much less of an acquired taste than kippers. Anywho, if you have never tried them (and few have) this is definitely the best place to start. 7/10

16 thoughts on “#238 Grilled Bloaters

  1. hi,its 19.30hrs on Tuesday 10th Jan 2012,i have just(3rd Jan) entered the 62nd year of my life,i mention this because it has been a memorable day,the day i first tasted the humble Bloater.Up to now i thought a good Kipper was the ultimate breakfast/tea,well no longer it has for me anyway knocked this two faced gutless tasty morsel off my No1 chart,lol.I simply cut slashes down both sides,left guts in and head on and grilled until skin was crispy ,turned it over and repeated on other side then devoured it. the taste was sensational and the Roes were divine,fit for a King,i am hooked(forgive the pun)and although i still love a Kipper i will be looking to eat a lot more Bloaters from this day onwards.Anyone who has not sampled a freshly smoked Bloater do yourself a favour and try one you will not be sorry.Its good to find something so tasty thats so good for you.i cant wait to try one straight from the smoke house….mgp Herts

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  2. Great stuff mpg! i am glad you like the bloater. They do have a much improved flavour as you say. What inspired you to try them?At the moment I am trying to locate some red herrings – the extremely salty and rock-hard fish that used to be taken on sea voyages. having trouble finding a source… but when I do, that'll be the holy trinity of cured herring complete!

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  3. Just back from Cley-next-the-sea, in Norfolk. While I was there I went to The Smokehouse & bought a Bloater which I have just eaten for breakfast.Not having been able to source bloaters in London for a fair few years I was very pleased with my purchase. Everything that is nice about a Kipper but without the over saltyness that you sometimes get. 5 stars.The Smokehouse does some very good smoked Eel as well.

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  4. i love Norfolk.Yes if there is ever a choice between kippers and bloaters, I always go with the latter, though there's not much opportunity these days. The fish society is good for that kind of thing – they send stuff frozen but it's very good…

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  5. The aforementioned Smokehouse in Cley also sells Red Herrings. I saw them there yesterday. I didn't know such a thing existed outside of agatha Christie novels.I bought bloaters instead which is what got me looking up how to cook them.

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  6. Also looking for red herrings (and possibly even black ones….) – came across this blog. In Brixton I can buy jars of Jamaican \”Solomon Gundy\” which is a paste made from red herrings, onions and hot peppers, and may be a new addiction of mine. I wonder where they get them in Kingston? Wikipedia is well wrong about red herrings, it says they're the same as kippers.

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  7. I have never heard of a black herring! I thought I had foud red herrings in America but they are, as you say, all bloaters really.I have found a couple of UK businesses that make them, so I'l be getting hold of some when I move back to the UK in August.

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  8. Jane Grigson, in my copy of \”Good Things\” (Penguin, 1974), under \”red herrings\” says to get them from Henry Sutton of Great Yarmouth, and that \”Suttons still cure a black herring, the ultimate in hardness, almost brittle\”. No trace of Suttons today.

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  9. Hi chaps,There is a tour around the old HS Smokehouse this summer. It's organised through Heritage Open Days in early September.

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  10. I don't know any restaurants that are selling them to eat, but I think that the fishmonger in somewhere like Borough market can get you some. I got mine from the fish society – they send you them by post!Thanks for the comment!

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