Unusual Ingredient of the Week - Herring Roe

And so, as promised, I tried an interesting variety meat this weekend. In truth you can only just call it meat as in fact it is sild – Herring Sild – also known as Herring Roes.
When you see the roe on display at your local fish counter, it doesn’t look like much at all. A sort of greyish, pinkish sludge in a bowl shoved to one side, the Red Snappers and Lemon Soles demanding the attention of the unsuspecting shopper. Don’t be fooled through by its unassuming demeanour. For about 59p you can get 250g of Herring Roe, which is ample for two hungry (and poor) people. Once you get home with your little bag of the pinkish mush, you will see that they are not slimy or squishy at all. In fact, they are long, plumpish, well defined curls of roe. For those of you not in the know, the roe you buy at the fish counter is not female in origin. That would be hard roe and would be packed with eggs. We are talking about soft roe, which is, basically the sperm of the male Herring, still encased inside the testis. Still with me? Remember back to when I discussed offal and how you just have to overcome your squeamishness? This is maybe another one of those instances. Trust me though. It’s not like eating bull’s testicles, there’s no close your eyes and think of England ingestion of these Danish delicacies.
Apparently, according to my grandmother who I suppose should know, Soft Roes are an old fashioned food, cheap and considered poor people’s food. More fool them because in regardless of its cheapness, Roe is a tasty, quick snack that is also nutritious. In their uncooked state, they have a delicate smell of the sea, not at all brash. To prepare them, carefully remove the black vein that runs along the sacs, and then dredge the plump little things in seasoned flour. Heat some butter in a pan and once bubbling, gently put the floured roe in, cooking for about 2-3 minutes on each side. As they cook, they curl up like big prawns and they become firm. As they fizzle and brown in the pan, season them with some black pepper and paprika if you wish. Serve on hot, buttered toast.
Another recipe for serving the roe, which I find delicious, is from Tamasin’s Kitchen Classics, and for that you prepare a shallot, caper and butter spread for the toast. It is so simple but the flavours of the shallot and salty capers really enhance the North Sea memory of the roes. Completely delicious.
Soft Herring Roe served with Caper and Shallot Butter
250g Herring Roe, gently deveined
Some plain white Flour
Salt and Pepper
Small Shallot, very finely chopped
Teaspoon Capers, rinsed (the ones in salt are the best)
Lemon Juice
Bread for Toasting (about 4 thick slices)
30g Butter for frying
40g Butter for the Bread
Put a handful of flour into a food bag and season with salt and pepper. Gently toss the Roe in the flour and then spread them out on a plate to avoid the flour from clogging up.
Melt the butter in a frying pan. Once sizzling, add the Roe, grind over some black pepper and cook on each side until golden brown and firm.
Meanwhile, make the Butter. Soften the butter with a fork in a small bowl, add the capers, shallots, spritz of fresh lemon juice and seasoning to taste.
Toast your bread. Once hot and browned to your own personal specification, slather with the Shallot/Caper Butter. Pop the browned roes on top of the fragrant, melting butter. Enjoy!


Al said...

This is a really good recipe. Very simple and quick to make. As long as you can get over your squeamishness it's well worth doing.

ADG said...

Absolutely right ! A great little Snack, just don't think about it too much !!

Anonymous said...

This takes me back to my child hood. I always new what is was but never belived it. However saying that, I'm off to get some for my super. It's fab and filling.