Sole of Discretion
Herring belongs to the same family of fish as sprat and pilchard. Small, silvery and streamlined with a single dorsal fin, they move around together in huge schools very near the surface. In Old Norse language ‘herring’ actually means ‘army’! Very important in the Scottish diet where they have been caught off the coast for centuries and referred to as the Silver Darlings.
Herring is fished throughout much of the north Atlantic. It is a resilient species and is caught using fishing methods that are relatively selective or ‘clean’ in terms of by-catch and non-damaging to the seabed. However, the larger ring-netters and purse seiners take out vast volumes of herring at a time, and the danger is that as this species is predated upon by many other species, the ecology of the food chain is altered. An iconic example of this is from the 1950’s in Scarborough, when Bluefin tuna were commonly caught, but with the demise of the over-fished herring, the bluefin tuna went elsewhere to forage and has not been seen off the east coast for many decades. Our herring are always caught by under 10m boats using pelagic nets.
The tasty herring is an oily fish rich in protein and vitamins and omega-3 fatty acids, which are beneficial to health. They can grow up to 40cm in length. Whole herrings can be poached, fried or grilled, or pickled, soused, marinated, salted and smoked. Rollmops are pickled, filleted herrings that are rolled around pickled cucumber.
Heat butter or oil in a large, heavy-based frying pan over a medium heat. Add the herring fillets to the pan, skin-side up (do this in batches if necessary). Gently press down on each of the herring fillets using a fish slice so that they stay flat. Fry for 1-2 minutes, or until golden-brown, then turn over and continue to fry on the other side for a further 1-2 minutes, or until the herrings are cooked through and the skin golden-brown.
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