I have recipe phases: I’ll regularly make, say, Atlas Mountain Soup or Parsnip and Sausage Pie and then for years it slips from my culinary horizons – but like Halley’s Comet, these loved recipes return. What I’ve noticed is they are all by women writers – Elizabeth David, Jane Grigson, Josceline Dimbleby, Deborah Madison – not celebrity chefs. It’s true I have a couple of Jamie Oliver and Hugh Fernley Whittingstall books on my shelves but as much as I admire them (particularly for their campaigning work) somehow I haven’t got round to cooking their dishes.
This salad is from the ever-dependable Delia Smith; celebrity chefs may come and go but her recipes remain timeless and easy to do. I think this recipe dates from the 1990’s – it’s certainly when I had a spell of eating it. But kippers are smelly when one lives in an open plan flat and the salad takes planning so it fell from favour. I made it again recently: the Manx kippers on sale at Applebee’s fishmonger in Borough Market were only £1.50 each, good value I thought – and it was a big hit with my husband.
Whole kippers have the nicest flavour compared to the ready packaged fillets; but then you’ve got the hassle of filleting them – try and get your fishmonger to do it for you. Make this salad at least a day before you eat it – Delia says it will last a week in the fridge but it’s usually all gone by then.
For 4 as a starter or part of a collection of salads
4 whole kippers
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
2 teaspoons black peppercorns
2 bay leaves, snipped into shards
2 shallots, thinly sliced
1 lemon, halved and thinly sliced
For the dressing:
2 teaspoons soft brown sugar
2 rounded teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon sauvignon blanc vinegar (or other mild vinegar)
100ml extra virgin olive oil
lemon juice to taste
500g small new potatoes
handful of chopped parsley, optional
First of all, dry-fry the coriander seeds and peppercorns in a small frying pan over a medium heat for 2 or 3 minutes until they start to ping and crack. Keep stirring them around to stop them from burning. Then give these spices a good bashing in a pestle and mortar so they are roughly broken – you are not looking for a powder.
Next, prepare the kipper fillets – there is no need to poach or grill the fish first. Place each fish skin side up on your chopping board. Make a small cut just through the skin by the tail. Tease away the skin and pull it towards the head end, a bit like slow motion removal of an sticky plaster. Slice the skin off and turn the fish over.
Use a sharp fillet knife to lift the backbone; once some of it has come away from the flesh it’s then easier to use fingers to lift the spine, tail to head, trying to take as many of the big bones with the spine. Chop off the spine and the head. You’ve now got a couple of fillets. i.e. you will have 8 fillets by the time you’ve finished. You will need to check them for any lingering bones.
Slice the fillets into large – about 4 centimetre – pieces and layer them in a ceramic or glass dish with the coriander and peppercorn mixture.
I don’t like raw onion (I find the flavour too assertive) so I blanche the sliced shallots for a minute in boiling water before patting them dry with kitchen paper and adding them to the fish with the bay leaves and lemon slices. You, of course, can add them raw if you prefer. Poke them in between the kipper chunks.
Mix the sugar and mustard together, followed by the vinegar. Lastly, whisk in the oil – this order of ingredients ensures the dressing emulsifies properly. Pour this over the kipper layers and taste it – you may want to sharpen up the flavour a bit more with the lemon juice.
Cover the salad with cling film and then place in the fridge and let it marinate for a minimum of 24 hours.
Bring the kippers to room temperature – i.e. take them out of the fridge at least an hour before the meal. Dice the potatoes so they’re 2-3cms chunks. Boil for 10 minutes or so until they’re tender. Drain and let the steam evaporate off them before folding them through the kipper mixture with the chopped parsley if using it.