Friday, March 11, 2011

Herring in Mustard and Buttermilk sauce

Again, being in Holland visiting, I go back to the old North Sea / Baltic staple.

This is basically a Scandinavian dish adapted for more Irish style ingredients.
In Sweden, this dish would most likely use dill for example.

I remember one conversation when I was told that had history been a little different Irish cuisine would be more like that found in Scandinavia, Iceland and Holland.
I suppose this has some basis in that our growing conditions are closer to them than to the Mediterranean regions, with things like oats, spelt and pulses. 
There has been a move towards this type of cuisine, particularly with NOMA in Copenhagen.

I feel also the type of food cooked in Normandy has particular reference to Ireland, with a lot of dairy, fruit and shellfish.
It is renowned for its rich butter and cream sauces - and for its apples, cider, and Calvados, an apple brandy much used in local cooking. Normandy, with its climate and history is not so different.

One thing we love with our fish is the sharp tang of citrus like lemon, so the buttermilk and mustard sauce gives that flavour. Quite common in Poland, Russia and Northern Germany - where a lot of Ashkenazi Jews lived the same combo of oily fish and a sharp taste was achieved using soured cream and chives, a dish I'll cover in the future.

This is a simple dish, get the potatoes down when you turn on the oven to pre-heat, add the beans over the spuds in a steamer about 5 minutes from plating up.

Takes about 25 - 30 minutes to cook if the fish are prepped in advance. 

Baking the fish is important in this dish, as it gives a dry texture to the flesh, it suits the sauce better.

ingredients (serves 2)

4 large herrings, cooking oil

for the sauce

3 tbsp (1 1/2 oz) 40 g Cuinneog butter
30 g (about a 1/4 teacup (1 oz)) plain flour
300 ml (1/2 pint) Cuinneog buttermilk
1 tablespoon Dijon wholegrain mustard
salt and freshly ground black pepper

* Some sugar or honey on standby (see note)

parsley and lemon wedges, for garnish


1. Heat the oven to 200°C (400 F) gas mark 6 and butter a deep ovenproof dish. Remove the heads from the fish, clean, gut, scale and bone them. Rinse and pat dry.

2. Slash the skins diagonally with a sharp knife two or three times on each side. Brush with a little oil. Put the herrings in the dish, cover and bake in the oven for about 20 minutes, until the flesh is no longer pinky.

3. Meanwhile, make the sauce. Melt the butter in a saucepan, stir in the flour and cook for a minute. Gradually blend in the milk, stirring. Add the mustard and bring to the boil slowly, stirring until thickened. 

Season to taste.

* While tasting, if you find the sauce too sharp add sugar or honey to sweeten slightly

4. Serve the herrings with the sauce poured over, I plated up with some baked new potatoes and buttered green beans. 

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