Last week in the supermarket was a big pile of reduced fish for sale. We decided to buy bags and bags of different fish including cod, bream and these herring. Most of the other fish went into our fish pie but the herring remained in our freezer. Although Liz really loves any kind of fish, cooked in any way, I am a little more cautious when it comes to oily and pungent varieties such as mackerel, sardines and, in this case, herring. As such, I prefer to fry these kinds of fish in plenty of butter and serve them with plenty of little side dishes so as the flavour blends in with the other food and is less empowering. We all know that fish can be battered in either breadcrumbs or a wet flour mix (as in our traditional fish 'n' chips) but I wondered if something different could be used - oats.
Oats have a fuller and deeper flavour than conventional flour and so I decided that the herring need not be completely covered in the oats. The oats have the potential to completely mask the flavour of the fish. Usually when placing a dry batter on fish or meat you would dip it in egg first and then into the dry mix but in this case I skipped the egg and just rolled the herring straight in the oats. More than enough oats stuck to the fish throughout the cooking.
Because of herring's robust flavour, I think it goes well with equally strong accompaniments. Softer and more fragile fish goes well with smooth white sauces and green vegetables, but I think oily fish needs more. So with our herring we had some butternut squash roasted with sage, carrots and a coarse beetroot puree.
3 whole herring cut into 6 fillets
a handful of oats
butter and/oil for frying
1 clove garlic
salt and pepper
1 squash (at this time of year there are so many different kinds of squash and pumpkin)
1. Start with the beetroot puree. Peel the beetroot, cut into chunks and blend in a food processor with the shallot, garlic, salt and pepper. Cook the puree on a very low heat for 20-30mins (add water if it becomes too dry).
2. Dice the squash into large chunks and toss in a roasting tin with some olive oil and the sage. Place in a preheated oven at 180 for about 30mins.
3. Cover the fillets of herring in oats and then cook them in a very hot pan with butter and a little olive oil. Cook until brown on both sides - this should only take about 2mins on each side.
4. Serve the fillets on top of the beetroot puree, roasted squash and some steamed carrots.