Manx Recipes to make the most of the delicious local catch.
FRIED HERRING ROES
In the season we would be coming ashore early every morning for breakfast carrying about half a hundred of fresh herring with us. We used to go to a public house for breakfast, and the woman there would take the herrings from us and scrape them as clean as clean, and then she would boil a potful for us.
When they were done, we we would shake the herrings from the bone into little brown dishes. We would fill them up with the herring broth, supping it with the herrings. Some of us, to make it more tasty, would sometimes put a scallion in the broth. We would have our own bread and butter to eat with us.
Afterwards some would, maybe, have a pint or two of "jough" (ale) and sometimes we would carry a jar of it on board with us.
- 1/2lb. herring roes or melts (soft roes)
- Seasoned Flour
- 1 1/2 oz. butter
- Dip roes in the seasoned flour and gently fry in the butter for about eight minutes.
GRILLED MANX KIPPERS
Kippers are a popular breakfast dish and can be prepared in a number of ways - fried, grilled, baked, poached or barbecued. They are a meal in themselves and need no accompaniment other than bread and butter.
- 1 or 2 kippers per person
- Line the grill rack with foil and heat the grill.
- Dot the fleshy side of each kipper with butter and grill for about five minutes.
History and Tradition
There was always a great rejoicing when the last of the corn was reaped at harvest time, and it was usual for the farmer to provide a supper for all the workers. The end of the reaping was known as the Mheillea (The Harvest Home) - a name which is still applied to harvest suppers.
When the last sheaf of corn was cut it was made into a garland with wild flowers bound with ribbon in the shape of Ceres, the Goddess of the Harvest. This garland known as "The Maiden" was then carried by one of the women reapers to the highest part of the land amid the cheers of the other workesr. A smaller sheaf, taken from" The Maiden" and preserved until the following harvest was called "The Harvest Doll".
The workers would put on their best clothes to attend the harvest supper, and after the meal there would be singing and dancing to the music of a fiddler until the early hours.
A dish that was popularly served at the Mheillea was herring pie. It was usually made with potatoes, but the following variation was found in a late eighteenth century cookery book.
- 6 Fresh Herring
- 1/2 Teaspoon Mace
- Salt and Pepper
- 3 Large Cooking Apples
- 2 Onions
- A Little Butter
- Line a large oven-proof dish with pastry
- Scale, gut and clean the herring, removing heads, fins and tails.
- Season the fish with the mace, salt and pepper.
- Put a little butter in the bottom of the pie dish, and then a row of herring.
- Pare the apples and place thin slices over the fish.
- Slice the onions and lay on top of the apple.
- Put a little butter on top and pour on a quarter of a cup of water.
- Cover with pastry and bake in a moderate oven for thirty to forty minutes.
PRIDDHAS AN' HERRIN'
This is probably the most renowned of all Manx dishes, and one of the simplest to prepare. This dish was traditionally served with plenty of buttermilk to drink.
- 2 herring per person
- Raw onion
- Use salt herring which have been soaked in fresh water overnight.
- Scrub the potatoes, put them in a saucepan and barely cover with water and boil.
- When the potatoes are just over half cooked lay the herring on top.
- When both are cooked carefully lift out the herring, drain the potatoes and serve with slices of raw onion and knobs of butter.
QUEENIES IN BATTER WITH TARTARE SAUCE
- 1/2 lb. Queenies
- Seasoned Flour
- 3 oz. Plain Flour
- 1 oz. Dried White Breadcrumbs
- 1 Tablespoon Cooking Oil
- 1 Egg
- 1/4 Pint Milk
- 4 Spring Onions
- 2 Teaspoons Parsley
- 1 Tablespoon Minced Capers or Gherkins
- A Little Mayonnaise
- 2 teaspoons Lemon Juice
- Mince the spring onions and mix with the parsley, capers and gherkins.
- Beat the mayonnaise until creamy. Add the lemon juice gradually.
- Poach the queenies in water until tender, drain and coat with seasoned flour.
- Prepare the batter by adding the beaten egg to the flour and breadcrumbs and gradually adding the milk and oil.
- Dip the queenies into the batter using a long skewer.
- Fry in deep oil, a few at a time, for about three minutes, or until golden brown.
- Drain on absorbent kitchen paper and sprinkle with salt.
- Serve at once with tartare sauce.
SALT HERRING (LATE 18TH CENTURY RECIPE)
For centuries the prosperity of The Isle of Man depended on the success of the herring season and the "King of the Sea" was the staple diet of the people. In winter the men would work on their small holdings, but in summer they would leave the land to reap the harvest of the sea.
Every family had a crock of salted herring for use throughout the year, and sometimes herring would be cured on hooks outside the cottage door.
The reverence with which this fish is regarded is illustrated by the fact that the Deemsters - the Islands supreme judges - when they take the oath, swear to execute justice as indifferently as "the herrings backbone doth lie in the midst of the fish".
- Any quantity of fresh Herring
- Bay Salt
- Brown Sugar
- Gut the fish and salt them lightly with plain salt. Lay them in a basket and leave them overnight to drain.
- Wipe each one in a dry cloth to take off all the scales. Pound together equal quantities of saltpetre, bay salt and brown sugar.
- Place a layer of this in an earthenware crock, then a layer of fish, and so on until the crock is full.
- Spread a thick layer of the salts on top. Cover the crock and leave for a few months before using.