I did no such thing, of course, but I made rollmops. They’re boned herrings, pickled in vinegar. I love them but have never attempted to make them before. However, there are lovely herrings being caught off the east coast at present and, a week ago, a Times columnist who lives in Aldeburgh (about 30 miles away, it’s Benjamin Britten country) said that she’d bought some on the beach, dirt cheap, and thought she’d try her hand at soused herrings. It wasn’t a success because of the faff of preparation and she gave up.
It inspired me, though, because I quite like faff and we’d had some beautiful herrings the week before, which I fried traditionally in oatmeal. So I bought half a dozen from Paul the Fish and looked up recipes. I decided, in the end, to make rollmops rather than soused herrings; the main difference being that the rollmops are pickled in vinegar rather than cooked in it.
It’s straightforward. You cut the heads and tails off; the innards come away as you pull gently at the head. You scrape off the scales and wash the fish, you split and bone them (this is the faff, but it’s not actually difficult), then steep them for a few hours – 3, I think – in salt water. Meanwhile, you boil vinegar with spices and let it cool, and slice an onion – with a few gherkins if you like. You pat the fish dry, cover it with onion and gherkin, carefully roll it up, secure it with a cocktail stick and put all of them in a dish or jar, covered with the vinegar. Leave it at least four days.
They’re delicious. I made a sort-of coleslaw, but with kohl rabi, onion and cucumber, and sliced some golden beetroot. I’m really pleased to have an extension to my food repertoire. I think that halving the fish into fillets and making smaller rolls would be a good idea, for a fish platter with various other ingredients. Not being able to entertain, I can at least dream of it. I will try soused herrings another time and see which we like best.
I’ve also been thinking about traditional American cookery. My mother made a mean jambalaya and delicious cornbread. She also used to make proper Boston baked beans, Chicken Maryland and various other dishes, so she must have had a good American cookery book, but I can’t find it. In discussing it with Tim, I became intrigued with the history of American food. So I must look into it.