• Bute St Seafoodie

Herring Milts with Sherry Vinegar Butter Sauce

Updated: Apr 6

"A kind word is no substitute for a piece of herring."

Sholem Aleichem (1859-1916)



This is a dish I've been making for about as long as I have been a customer of the Bute Street farmers' market. The quality of the herrings they were bringing in the autumn and winter months was so impressive that herrings became a near-permanent item on my shopping list during those months. And when these herrings came laden with their roes and milts, this particular recipe jumped out at me - not least for my draw toward vinegary, mustardy sauces.


It's a recipe from "Rick Stein's Seafood Lovers' Guide", which he created specifically for the milts of the male herrings rather than the roes of the females. I like both but I do rather prefer the milts, and cooked in crispy breadcrumbs, their creaminess is quite delectable.


In practice, buying the right herring in hope of milts is not the easiest thing to achieve every time. And over the years I have accepted that sometimes this recipe has roes in it instead, though to perfect satisfaction (I have also used this sauce for breaded fish fillets). But when "Dock" was a regular on the stall, I seemed to come home quite reliably having bought male fish were I to have asked him to choose them for me.

On this occasion I have made the dish with herrings supplied by Yorwarth's Fresh Fish at the recently launched High Street Kensington's farmers' market, where I will be going regularly from now on. I got one male and one female and that's more than good enough for me. I still do prefer the milts though.


To my taste, the sherry vinegar, shallot and mustard in the sauce perfectly suit an accompaniment of watercress and for me that achieves a quite perfect light meal, but served with mashed potato, as Rick Stein suggests, it becomes a more substantial plate.

Roughly speaking, 100g of herring milt is about 5 pieces. You're therefore after the milts from 5 to 7 fish to serve two, depending on whether you want to serve this as a light or full meal. That means there's quite a bit of fish still left to be used. Thankfully, herring are rather versatile in their cookery so some fillets coated in oatmeal, pan-fried and served with bacon are one way to go, and I'll be posting a real favourite of mine for marinated/cured herring in the very near future. However, if you're after just the milts, they are available in supermarkets but your fishmonger will be very happy to prepare them for you as they will be able to sell the fillets as a separate product.


The sauce can be made ahead. Just before serving it can be reheated and either reduced further if you want a thick sauce, or let down with a little water if you want something thinner. For me, the sauce is ideal when cooked to a 'coating' consistency.




Herring Milts with Sherry Vinegar Butter Sauce



Ingredients (Serves 2)


200-250g herring milts (or roes if that's what you found inside your herring, see intro)

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Plain flour for dusting

1 egg, beaten

Breadcrumbs (Panko are ideal) for coating

Oil for shallow frying, rapeseed oil is a good choice


For the sauce:

3 tbsp chicken stock

3 tbsp sherry vinegar

20g butter, cubed and chilled

1-1½ tbsp (12-15g) finely chopped shallot

½-1 tbsp finely chopped parsley

¼-½ tsp Dijon mustard

Salt, to taste



Method

  1. Start with the sauce. Bring the chicken stock, sherry vinegar and butter to the boil in a small saucepan and let it bubble away until it has become syrupy. Stir in the shallot, parsley and mustard, season with a little salt and leave to stand somewhere warm.

  2. Heat the oil in a frying pan ready to shallow fry the fish. Put the flour, beaten egg and breadcrumbs in three shallow dishes. Line a plate with kitchen paper to drain the oil from the cooked milts.

  3. When the oil is up to temperature, season the herring milts generously with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Pass them through the flour, shaking off the excess, next pass them through the beaten egg allowing the excess to drain off, and finally coat them with the breadcrumbs. Fry the breaded milts, in batches if necessary, in the oil for 1-2 mins per side until the breadcrumbs are golden. Remove them from the pan with a slotted spoon and allow them to drain on the paper-lined plate.

  4. Reheat the sauce, adding a splash of water if over-thickened. Divide the herring milts across two plates and serve straightaway with the sauce drizzled over.


References

  1. "Rick Stein's Seafood Lovers' Guide", Rick Stein (2000), pp. 100: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Rick-Steins-Seafood-Lovers-Guide/dp/0563488719

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