If you are looking for an easy fish recipe, they don’t come much easier than this. Grilled herring is a simple and quick way to enjoy this tasty fish. Stocks have recovered from the lows of the 1970s in most waters, and are currently classified as sustainable, so buy yourself some herring, and get cooking. Herring is one of those oily fish that we are supposed to eat more of due to the high omega-3 content and all the rest of the good stuff, but even better, they are delicious, and (at the time of writing) inexpensive.
Herring are best cooked whole and on the bone; obviously they will need to be gutted, and you can also take the heads off if you prefer – if you’re squeamish, ask the fishmonger to do this for you. If you’d like to do it yourself, cut in with a sharp knife just on the body side of the pectoral fin (the one of the side nearest the head), then repeat on the other side. If you do this carefully, you can sever the spine, and with a gentle tug remove the head with the guts attached. This leaves the belly whole, and you can tuck some herbs and seasoning into the pouch. If the guts don’t come away cleanly with the head, just slit the belly from the vent towards the head end, and remove all the nasty bits – note that at certain times of the year, the roes will be present, and for many people these are an extra tasty treat.
To Grill a Herring:
Preheat the grill/broiler – full heat with the grill pan low.
Depending on the size of the fish, make two or three slashes in the flesh on each side, going right down to the bone. This helps the fish cook more evenly. If the cleaning has left the belly whole, then stuff with any herbs and seasoning of your choice. Rub a little oil onto the skin, and season generously with salt and pepper.
Grill for three to four minutes per side; when the skin has turned a golden brown, and the flesh feels firm to a prod of the finger (don’t burn yourself) it is done.
Serve with anything you like: some new potatoes and a salad, perhaps, or some rice or noodles and some stir-fried veg. Horseradish is a great accompaniment to oily fish, either the classic horseradish sauce (home-made or from a jar) or the more fiery wasabi will work equally well – try smearing some on a warmed crusty baguette, and add the fish, removed from the bone, and broken up a little with a fork.
This grilling technique is also excellent for mackerel and other similar sized fish.