For some herrings are a symbol of overpowering stink. This stereotype is an affront to this small fish, which in fact is one of the most interesting inhabitants of the Baltic Sea.
This curse of horrible smell and look lingers on herrings like on no other fish. But one couldn’t be more wrong! Fresh fish smell of the sea, even when they are herrings.
Small but so powerful in taste, this fish should appear on our tables much more often for many reasons. Common fish, including herrings, are considered the best. They freely swim in seas without any barriers, quite a luxury in today’s world.
Twait shads are a bigger species in the herring family. Sometimes they can be found at fish markets. They’re worth the trouble. But there is one small snag: they’re protected. I’m not tempting you to fall foul of the law but if you see a herring twice the size of its colleagues lying beside at the market, buy it on spec. You will have a chance to enjoy a feast with the forbidden fruit, which always tastes better, even in the form of a herring.
Herrings have a divine power. They’re rich in everything: very easily assimilable proteins, great omega-3 acids and finally the following vitamins: A, beneficial for eyes and beauty, E, which defeats dementia, and D, a substitute for the sun we often miss so much in our climate.
We can fall in love with the herring in spring, when the fish are devoid of milt and roe. But to those who prefer additional values I recommend herrings bought between July and September, when the fish contain more fat, milt and roe. October means no milt nor roe once again. We should always look for fleshy fish.
But like in the case of governments or lovers, choosing a herring is also difficult. How can we grow fond of the fish if its fillets are in most cases white? This is not its natural colour. Normally, herrings turn black. But our wonderful producers took the periodic table and hit upon the idea of pouring hydrogen peroxide over the fish. Thanks to such tricks, herrings whiten and become beautiful. Later, they’re rinsed and sold and praised by customers for their excellent taste. Ignorant masses buy everything… But I tell you not to follow this path.
Drop in a fishmonger’s or a market, look the seller deep into his or her eyes and, in an assertive tone, ask for a kilo of good herrings, THE herrings.
When they’re finally in your kitchen, prepare this marine treasure according to the best recipe. With our hero the whole thing is really simple. Rinse the carcass in running water, put the knife in the anus and cut the fish toward its head.
Prepare also some marinade to accompany your herrings in jars after the fish are fried. You need several times more water than vinegar. And as far as vinegar itself is concerned: choose apple vinegar, synthetic vinegar if you look for some thrills or rice vinegar if you love the Orient. Add several spoons of honey to make the whole marinade taste bitter-sweet and some pepper to taste. I recommend a mix of green, red, Sichuan and black seeds. Now add a few bay leaves, several balls of allspice, some mustard seeds and whole cloves of garlic.
And now the fun part.
Take a red onion, which is indispensable for the dish, cut it into rings and cook it with olive oil until it’s soft. Add vinegar, water and the rest of the ingredients. Boil the whole thing for a few minutes. Coat the herrings in wheat flour and fry them with hot olive oil until they’re golden brown. Drain off the excess of oil, put the herrings into jars head down and pour the marinate inside. Having spent several days in a cool place, the herrings are ready to delight your palate. Fish out the herrings of the jar and enjoy their deliciously spicy flavour.
herring, water, vinegar, honey, pepper, bay leaves, allspice, mustard seed, garlic, flour, oil
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