Roll up for rollmops!

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!

7 replies
  1. Mister North
    Mister North says:

    Right. I’m going to make these as it sounds pretty straightforward… more so that I’d imagined. Always love a good rollmop… especially good after drinking ice-cold vodka shots… boom!

  2. grania @ crumbs for dinner
    grania @ crumbs for dinner says:

    I’ve never had rollmops before, as truth be told, I had always previously held them in the same vaguely suspect category as jellied eels.

    However, I love those delicious little pickled anchovy fillets (wonderful alongside a glass of chilled dry fino sherry) so might actually be persuadeable to give these a try.

  3. thelittleloaf
    thelittleloaf says:

    My brother’s ex-girlfriend was Danish and always trying to get us to sample various strange fish and lethal alcohol concoctions..I’ve never been a huge fan but your version does look rather wonderful. Delicious looking bread too 🙂

  4. Miss South
    Miss South says:

    Grania, I am utterly squeamish about jellied eels, but these are great. Like a bigger (and much cheaper) version of those dreamy anchovy fillets. Plus the homemade pickled shredded onion and cucumber with them is fabulous. I’m not sure about sherry with them, but a beer would be perfect!

    Little Loaf, I’ve never actually done the whole pickled fish and booze thing myself, but now Mister North has suggested it I will be trying it soon. Gives me an excuse to eat more of that bread to soak up the vodka…

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