The home cooks of the Baltic countries have kept alive the tradition of treating fresh herring like a long-lost favourite cousin, who must be fussed over.
Herring fillets by their nature attract a crust.
On the northern shore of the Baltic sea the fillets are dusted with flour, dipped in egg, coated in cheese and flour, then fried over a high heat.
Across the sea in Estonia they do exactly the same but rye flour is preferred to wheat flour and a thin mustard, loosened with oil, replaces the egg batter.
What they agree on is the cheese, grated parmigiano or a similar hard cheese.
The accompaning dishes also reflect their culinary perferences.
In Finland it might be pasta, in Estonia, it might be potatoes. Sauces vary dramatically.
In Sweden they take the fried Baltic herring onto a different level, treating it, like the Danes, with the reverence it deserves, serving it with a full orchestra of culinary sounds.
This is pan-fried herring.
- 500 g herring fillets, deboned
- 200 g rye flour / whole wheat flour
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 100 g cheese, grated
- 50 g butter / 30 ml olive oil (or combination of both), for frying
- 30 g mustard thinned with oil
- Black Pepper, large pinch
- Salt, large pinch
- Dill for garnish
Place half the flour on a plate, the other half with the cheese (with seasonings) on a second plate, and the batter in a wide bowl.
Dredge fillets in flour, batter with egg or mustard, finish in the cheese-flour mix.
Fry, skin-side down first, for two minutes over a high heat for two minutes. Turn without breaking the fillets, three minutes.
Generally the herring recipes of the upper Baltic region are variations of the same theme – baked in pastry served with a napkin, deep-fried served with chips, marinated served with toast, pickled served with imagination, smoked served with salad, spiced served with fresh bread, stewed served with potatoes.