We brought back a souvenir from our trip to Northumberland - kippers.
Kippers are salted and smoked herrings,
and were very popular in Victorian and Edwardian times, particularly as a
breakfast dish. The modern kipper was invented in Northumberland, and
we bought ours from Swallowfish in Seahouses, who have been in business
since 1843. With no additives, preservatives or colourings, these are
about as authentic as you can get.
There is a lot to be said for kippers.
They are high in omega 3, cheap and sustainable. So why have they
fallen so far out of fashion?
My first experiment was a Nigel Slater
recipe "Kippers Benedict", where the kippers are teamed with hollandaise
sauce. What isn't delicious with butter sauce after all?
My first task was to cook the kipper
which was very simple. Just put in hot water for 5 - 10 minutes. The
next step was boning the fish, which was a royal pain in the ass. I'm
no expert in fish anatomy, but even when I did manage to lift off a
fillet, this was full of tiny hair-like bones running right through the
flesh. While the answer is maybe to 'man up' and just eat the bones, it
was my lunch and I didn't want to. I actually gave up half way through
and made Mr G do the rest. He didn't fare any better, which was
relieving and disheartening in equal measures. After all that palaver I
didn't feel bad about cheating on the hollandaise front and using a shop
The taste test - I was pleasantly
surprised by the flavour, being not as strongly salty or 'fishy' as I'd
feared. While it did vary a little with the edges of the fish tasting
stronger, much of the flesh was plump, moist and quite mildly
flavoured. While I'd expect sharp flavours like vinegar or citrus to
complement an oily fish, the creaminess was actually a nice balance to
With both me and the house already smelling of fish, and another kipper still to go, I kept up the kipper odyssey.
Eliza Acton's recipe is a little
different from the one we'd recognise today, being more of an omelette.
It includes cold rice, cold fish and cayenne, but the eggs are beaten
and mixed in, with the dish then cooked until set. Mrs Beeton's later
recipe again contains the same basic ingredients, but the eggs are
boiled this time.
1 kipper, cooked and bones removed
1/2 an onion, chopped
Curry powder (1 tbsp)
1 cup rice
1 cup peas
2 hard boiled eggs to garnish
I fried the onion in a little oil
together with the curry powder for few minutes. I then added the rice
and 2 cups water and simmered until the liquid was nearly all absorbed.
I added the peas for the last 2 minutes of cooking. I peeled and
quartered the hard boiled eggs to garnish. You could use the cooking
liquid from the fish instead of plain water, but I wanted to dial down
the fish flavour.
The taste test - This turned out to be a
very good dish. There was a nice ratio of rice to fish and the curry
powder provided a good balance to the strength of flavour from the
Overall, I'd be surprised if kippers do
manage to stage a strong come back. For all their positives, there an
embodiment of why people don't like fish - full of bones and too
'fishy' tasting. The smell and taste really did linger. Hours later despite
repeated washing my hands still smelt like a fish wife's. I ate a
chocolate biscuit after lunch, and this too ended up tasting of fish. That definately got the thumbs down on the taste test!