Roll up for rollmops!

by Miss South on September 22, 2011

You can tell I’m half Scottish. I love oats, raspberries are my favourite fruit and I never say no to haggis. But the real clincher is how much I heart herring. I adore rolled them in the aforementioned oats and fried or grilled with anchovy and herb butter, but nothing tops the rollmop. Shiny silver herring soused with onion, spices and cucumber in a handy pot? To me it’s a treat of such delight, I’d be more likely to pick up some pickled fish than chocolate if I wanted to cheer myself up…

So when I found myself with a spare kilner jar recently and espied some beautiful herring on the counter at Dagon’s in Brixton Village (just by Honest Burgers for those wondering) I knew the time had come to take the obsession up a notch and make my own rollmops. I got the fishmongers to fillet the fish and practically skipped home to get a-pickling.

I used this Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall recipe as a guide. I soaked the herring in brine for a few hours, which plumps them up beautifully but does produce a fairly unpleasant odour. So open a window if you can. I then sterilised a clean kilner jar in the oven, while I heated vinegar, allspice, peppercorns, finely sliced onion and dill in a pan. The truly revolting smell of warm vinegar will get rid of any fishiness in the house and made me wonder if I shouldn’t just go back to plastic tubs of soused herring in future…

But the satisfaction of rolling the fillets up, filling the jar with vinegar and herbs and spices and sealing it firmly with a snap won out and by the time the fish went into the fridge, I wasn’t sure if I can manage to wait three days for them to be ready. In the end, I got sidetracked by life and didn’t get to them for a week and they were very much worth the extra wait.

Plump as anything, soft as butter and well flavoured, I cut them with the side of the fork, watching them flake apart perfectly and served them on some lightly buttered sourdough from Wild Caper. They were one of those simple lunches that is in actually fact so good you can hardly believe how lucky you are to be eating it at home. Delicately spiced and super flavoursome, there was no contest between these and the usual shop bought.

I’d definitely use the splash of cider in with the vinegar next time as there was just a bit too much rawness to the vinegar for my liking and it clashed slightly with the soft sweet fish. (Do not go all health conscious and skip the sugar in the recipe. You’ll blow your head off otherwise.) Some cucumber would knock this out of the the park mixed in with the onion and I’ll use some homegrown tarragon instead of the dill, because I intend keeping a jar of these beauties in the fridge all the time now. A few minutes effort makes this a simple treat I can’t get enough of, especially served with some potato salad for an ultimate Northern European feast!

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