Remember this little guy...?
Vous vous souvenez de ce petit bonhomme....?
Erinnern Sie sich an diese klein mannli...?
I recall a time when the humble herring was staple diat in Scotland.
Image via WikipediaNo week went past without having it served up at 2 to 3 times.
Why...? Because it was dirt cheap!
At the time we used to detest the things, because the whole house smelled of it - for weeks, and they were full of little bones which often gave work for casualty departments rescuing children from suffocating!
Nowadays....all gone - the humble herring has advanced to super proportions, particularly in price, and that only if you can find them, which is getting rarer and rarer.
Strangely, I only started to appreciate the things when I moved overseas to Germany, where I got to know what you could do with them other.......... than burning them black, and serving them with mashed potatoes!
Image via Wikipedia
Firstly the "Herringe" available were of really first class quality, and were served in such a variety of ways that it was always a pleasure to just look at them, then to succulently let a "Bismark Herring filet" slide down the throat...
No excessive salty taste, no sharp vinegary taste, no burnt taste.....just a lovely lingering taste, and the place didn't stink for weeks after either...!
From simple through to ......simple! This picture shows a "Matjes herring filet" served simply with "pellkartoffeln" (steamed potatoes in their jackets) a boiled egg and some thick cream with herbs to dip everything in....Try it - if you can get the herring filets in this way. Outside of Holland and Germany it isn't often you see them, and if you ask, you're told (in bluff terms) "NO DEMAND......"!
Course there's no demand - because people don't know about it.....!
Of course, there is also the equally simple "Rollmop" which, for some reason or other HAS made the voyage around the globe.Also delicious, if occasionally a little rough to the taste due to the pickling vinegar being too sharp, but if you filter it and add a little sugar, the taste is brought out as it really should be.
Now - of course the herring is known, particularly in Britain, in it's form of "smoked" - in other words "The Kipper"....famous as a Breakfast dish, but usable also with steamed potatoes as a main meal. It has it's distinctive taste from the type of wood used to cure it, each one being slightly different, but there are also other forms of "cured" herring filets, and it is of these I would like to suggest something different...
How about a "Herring Quiche" or even better a simple "Herring Custard"....made from those "hareng fumées" and otherwise cured, that one finds in France and elsewhere? Simple to make, all you need is some de-salted smoked herring filets ( relatively cheap in supermarkets, soaked for 3-4 hours in cold water - changed regularly) a couple of eggs, some milk or even better liquid cream, a little muscat nut, seasoning to your own taste. Just lay the filets in a microwave or oven proof dish, deep enough to allow them to be covered by the "custard" which is made of beaten eggs, cream and milk, seasoned to your desires. Pour this mix over the herring filets to cover them, and then put them into either oven or microwave, appropriately covered, and allow them to cook until the custard is set.
Whilst you're waiting, prepare some triangular "croutons" (fried in olive oil over a fierce heat so as to get a browned but not burnt effect) from so called "toast bread" cut into half - triangularly. When the dish is ready, take it out and surround it with your browned croutons.
Lemons can also be added with parsley as decoration and for taste, and - beleive me, the contrast in colour and crispy croutons with creamy herring custard is quite magnificent...and terribly, terribly healthy....difficult to beleive that doing so much good to your body can taste so good....for a change!
Just a little word on these "herring preparations.......
Strangely, in France, the German style preparations are rarely to be found and fresh "green" herrings are found only really in the Northern parts of France.
The Meditteranean variety has nothing to do with the North Sea and Baltic Sea herrings.
It is "spoilt" by the warmer water, since herring gets its taste from the healthy oils and fats, the more there is the better, and in the colder waters of the Northern seas, the fish puts on more fat and oils - therefore - more taste.
Of course the above recipe can also be used for any other smoked or cured fish, notably haddock, the price of which nowadays is somewhat prohibitive.
My second idea is really a variation on the above, except it involves a real Quiche, with pastry - just differently to the more popular and well known Quiche Lorraine.
Why not try a salmon or tuna fish Quiche? ..These can be made from cheaper conserved fish, such as Salmon or even better Tuna. Most important is to ensure that the fish is in it's "natural juices" and NOT in oil!
Just drain the juices, and use them to make your "custard" for the filling of eggs and cream etc.....eaten direct from the oven, just a little cooled, it is a "right royal feast" and can also be used for your cold tables in summer.
Give these ideas a try - you'll be surprised....!
|Image via Wikipedia|
|Herring "matjes" Dutch style with raw chopped onions - definately NOT Scottish...!|
simple Scottish basic diat.