A very homely supper

There are some recipes in old recipe books which you cannot imagine ever being made these days, mainly because our tastes have changed so much, but also because some of what were very basic and everyday ingredients, aren’t readily available.

I love fish, and my favourite is the herring, the silver darling of old. They used to be so plentiful, the sea was full of them; now because of disastrous and short-sighted fishing on an industrial scale, they don’t often appear in recipes because they don’t often appear, in their natural state, on fish counters. I guess also people aren’t able or willing to actually deal with the fish, gutting and boning them, but they are fish with the most delicious flavour!

Delicious as herrings are (fried, cured, smoked, pickled, roll-mopped) there are recipes in some old cookery books which even I wouldn’t fancy… although I can’t exactly tell you why not… here is one in point, from a 1956 cookery book, which even the author (Constance Spry) sort of dams with faint praise – “This is a very homely dish, much liked by some people.” … some people?

here it is, what do you think?

Yorkshire Herring pie

  • 4 fresh herring, washed and boned
  • 4 potatoes, blanched whole for a few minutes then sliced thinly
  • 2 sour apples, chopped finely
  • 1 shallot, chopped finely
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 gill of water
  1. cut the herring into fillets and soak in salted water for a little while
  2. well butter a pie dish and line with potato
  3. place a layer of fillets on the potato and season
  4. cover with apple/shallot mixture
  5. continue the layers until the dish is full, finishing with potatoes on top
  6. add the liquid and cook in a moderate oven for ¾ – 1 hour

I imagine the poor fish would be cooked to a pap, the potatoes would have an oily, fishy, flabby texture, the apples and shallots ditto… no I would prefer to boil the potatoes, fry the herring, and make a sort of something with everything else!


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