The herring and mackerel recipes in the Saltwater Fish section of the Fishchapter have been pretty hit and miss; from the sublime #386 Herrings in Oatmeal to the ridiculously rank #390 Isle of Man Herring Pie, so I was rather pleased that this is the final one of the book. That said, this one did not strike too much fear into me; rollmops are okay and this recipe was not a million miles away from them.
Pickled herrings are not really considered as an English food these days, more Scandinavian, yet they were enjoyed frequently, after all how else were those inlanders going to get to eat them prior o e invention of the train? Pickled fish were an essential part of a #334 Salmagundi as we discovered in (quite unexpectedly) the Poultrysection.
When it comes to eating soused herrings, Jane suggests eating them the Scandinavian way: ‘serving them with a bowl of cream, beaten with lemon juice, salt and pepper, and flavoured with chives…[and] with wholemeal or rye bread and butter’.
This recipe is for 6 people, but as you’ll see, it is very adaptable to any number for folk.
First, select 6 good-looking, plump, red-cheeked herring and ask the fishmonger to bone them, removing their heads. Once home, season the herrings with salt and pepper, roll them up tightly, and spear with cocktail sticks to secure them. Arrange the fillets in an appropriate ovenproof dish, masking sure they fit closely.
Next, pour over a quarter of a pint each of good malt vinegar and water. Halve 3 bay leaves and thinly slice 3 shallots(or a medium onion) and tuck between the fish. Add to that a deseeded and thinly-sliced red chili and level tablespoon of pickling spice.
Cover the dish with foil and bake at 160⁰C for 45 minutes and allow them to cool.
If you don’t want to serve the herring in their baking dish, move them to a more suitable serving dish and sieve over the pickling liquor.
#406 Soused Herrings. Well this was a middling recipe really, not inedible but not very exciting either. The well-flavoured pickling liquor was much better than the liquor used for rollmops. However, rollmops they were, which are never going to have me doing cartwheels. 4.5/10.
I decided that I needed to get back into doing some proper cooking now that I have a new stove in my new apartment. I invited some people around from work and their various spouses and kids. It is pretty hot here in St Louis at the moment so I needed to choose a recipe that was nice and summery and not all hot and stodgy. It needed to be buffet-style as there would be eight of us in all and I can only fit four around my little table. It also needed to be one that is prepared in advance so I wouldn’t be rushing around in the 35°C heat on the day. I don’t ask for much do I? Oh, and it also couldn’t be weird. My options for this kind of food are rather limited in the book now, but I happily found this one that seemed fresh and clean and rather Mediterranean in style.
The sole lies on its side on the sea bed to camouflage itself.
Over time, natural selection has reacted to this by moving one eye
so that they both sit on one side of the head.
The word caveach refers to a method of preserving fish by cooking and then pickling it and comes from the Spanish escabeche. I did a little research on the preservation method and could only find books from the early-to-mid nineteenth century that mention it in any detail; though it seemed popular in both Britain and America at that time. The recipe below is more of a dinner party adaptation where the fish is only left for a few hours to pickle and isn’t intended as a preservation method at all. You can caveach any fish you like – the most popular seemed to be mackerel, herring and sardine, presumable because they were the cheapest and most common seafish at that time.
It is also nice to cook a receipt from the Seawater Fish section of the book – options are limited in America because there are different species of fish found commonly in their waters compared to European waters. However there is some common ground and the newly-discovered and very excellent grocery store Straub’s has a great selection of fish and meat as well as some other tricky-to-find ingredients, so I’ll be using them quite frequently during my time here in Missouri.
First of all prepare your sole fillets – you’ll need eight in all. Flatten them a little with a rolling pin, season with salt and pepper and fry them quickly in a little olive oil so that they brown a little. Cut them into thirds and arrange the pieces on a serving dish. Slice a medium red onion thinly and scatter over the fish along with the thinly sliced pared rind of a lemon and a couple of bay leaves cut in two. Next mix together seven fluid ounces of olive oil with three tablespoons of white wine vinegar and pour over the fish. Season again with salt, pepper and some Cayenne pepper too. Cover and refrigerate for at least a few hours, but preferable over night. When it is time to serve, scatter over some chopped herbs – parsley, coriander or chervil are suggested by Griggers. I went with coriander. Serve with bread and butter and a salad.
#302 Caveach of Sole. This was everything I had hoped it would be – fresh, clean and slightly piquant. The delicately flavoured sole was not overwhelmed at all by the onions and the mild seasoning. A very good recipe this one – and simple too. I think I am going to try it with other, cheaper fish in the USA like tilapia or catfish. Any fish would work I reckon. A dinner-party stalwart this one will be, I feel. 8/10.
‘An inexpensive luxury’, says Jane Grigson of smoked sprats. That sentence should be now changed to: ‘An expensive luxury’. How times have changed. I’m not sure why smoked sprats aren’t more widely available because fresh sprats certainly are, so it’s not like they are hard to come by. The only place I’ve seen them is The Fish Society’s website. You eat smoked sprats whole, rather like whitebait, the difference of course, is that they are quite a lot bigger than tiny whitebait.
Anyways, my friends Simon and Rachel came over to visit after their super-amazing trip around South America. They blogged it, natch, have a look-see at it here. I thought smoked sprats would make a great starter. Because my friend Stuart – a staunch vegetarian – came along too so I served some pickled eggs, remember them? Have a look here to see they were made.
To cook the sprats, simply grill them and serve them with lemon wedges and brown bread and butter. To eat them, pull off their heads and tails and eat. If that seems a little too much, you can remove the fillets from each side with your thumb.
#240 Smoked Sprats. I really liked these alot. The problem of bones/guts was, in the end, a non-issue. The bones were just the right side of not being too crunchy or sharp. They were quite strongly smoked, but also sweet in flavour and not over-powering like some cured fishes can be. If you see some, be sure to give them a go. 8.5/10
#232 Pickled Eggs. These were also very good – they required a little wait for the viengar to work its pickling magic, but were worth it. If you’ve had vile pub pickled eggs, don’t be put off by these. the white wine vinegar made them very subltly sharp and the chillies in the pickling liquor lent a decent spicy-punch to them. 7/10.
Ah, the pickled egg, one of England’s most traditional and bizarre delicacies; and they are certainly not to everyone’s tastes. Usually to be found in the fish and chip shop or the pub, they are strange creatures; like little biological specimens bobbing about in their brown malt vinegar jars. I reckon that people automatically expect to dislike them, and they probably would do; however, this recipe in English Food seems very good. The main reason why a pub pickled egg is snubbed that they are pickled in pure malt vinegar which makes them far too harsh. This recipe uses white wine vinegar and quail’s eggs over hen’s eggs, which means they are tiny and bite-sized rather than a great big chore. You can use hen’s eggs for this recipe though as the spiced vinegar seems so much more subtle and sweet. In fact if you ever do get a load of hen’s eggs, this would be a good way to store them. They take two weeks to pickle, so I don’t actually know what they taste like yet; we shall have to wait and see (see here
how they were).
First of all, you need to make your pickling vinegar and the amount you required will depend upon the number of eggs you want to pickle. I had dozen quail’s eggs and so only needed half a pint to fill one large jar. I’ll give you the amounts for two pints of pickling vinegar as provide by Griggers herself, you can alter amount as required. Pour two pints of white wine vinegar into a pan along with half an ounce each of fresh peeled ginger, mustard seeds and white peppercorns plus three small dried chillies. Bring to the boil and simmer for five minutes. Strain the vinegar and allow to cool. Meanwhile, place the eggs in another pan and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil and allow to simmer for two minutes for quail’s eggs and ten minutes for hen’s eggs. You would do well to time the simmering, you don’t want to guess the times and have over-cooked black-ringed yolks. Let the eggs cool also. Shell the eggs and arrange them tightly in a sterilised jar – if hen’s eggs arrange them upright; if quail’s don’t bother as they are far too fiddly. Pour over the spiced vinegar, tuck in the dried chillies and seal tightly. Make sure you use non-metal lids as the metal will be corroded by the acidic vinegar. Leave for two weeks before using in salads or as an hors d’oeuvre, says the Grigson. I might use them as an excuse to have fish and chips.