Sunday, 26 June 2011

Baked Herring with Gooseberries, Chilli and Star Anise

I'm going back to Singapore tomorrow, can't wait to finally see my family and friends after almost a year, and can't wait to eat fried carrot cake and nonya food and of course, my mum's cooking. But I'll be missing London too, especially the ready availability of fresh produce (Singapore is such a small island that there is no farming land at all, so almost all our groceries are imported.). And weird as it may sound, I'll definitely miss waking up at 5am on Saturday to get to work at Pimlico farmers' market.

I thought I better get my hand on some very British fruits or vegetable that I wouldn't have the chance to cook with in Singapore, so I ended up with a bag of gooseberries. As perfectly normal and even boring as it may sound to some people, gooseberries are really very new to me. I've never seen them before coming to London, though I've heard of them, but only in Enid Blyton storybooks. I tried some for the first time last year when I went to a pick-your-own fruit farm in Kent, and I fell in love with these juicy sour berries. They're often sweetened with sugar and used in puddings and pies, but I thought it'd be fun to use them in a savoury dish instead, Mackerel and gooseberries is a classic combination but I thought I'd try it with another oily fish, herring, which is also in season.

Baked Herring with Gooseberries, Chilli and Star Anise
Ingredients (serves 2)
1 whole large herring, cleaned and gutted with head and tail intact
2 handfuls of gooseberries
1 tbsp dried chilli flakes (or 1 red chilli, chopped finely)
1 star anise
few sprigs of thyme
1 tbsp soy sauce (traditionally brewed tamari is good)
1 heaped tbsp unrefined palm or cane sugar
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees celsius.
2. Score the skin of the herring lightly on both sides to help the seasoning penetrate better and cook evenly. Season with soy sauce and chilli, stuffing some thyme and a few gooseberries into the cavity.
3. Place herring on a baking tray lined with baking parchment and scatter the gooseberries around the mackerel, tossing everything with the oil. Sprinkle the sugar over the gooseberries, and the remaining thyme and chilli all over, with a splash of

4. Seal with aluminium foil, and bake for 25-30 min (timings may vary a bit with the size of your fish) till the fish is just cooked and the flesh is opaque but still soft and flakey.

Herring and gooseberries is a great combination, as the tart juices bursting from the gooseberries help to cut the richness of the herring. But I couldn't resist adding the chillies and spices for an added kick. It may sound odd, but I knew it'd work somehow, the sour-sweet gooseberries work kind of like tamarind in the Southeast Asian recipes I'm familiar with, which is often combined with soy sauce and chillies for a perfect balance of sweet, sour, salty and spicy. The star anise and thyme added a nice sweet aroma to the dish. The best part about it was that it was so easy, just chuck everything together, and there's hardly any cleaning up to do ;)

Ah, gooseberries and all you weird British foods, see you 3 months later ):


  1. Oh! Have a nice and safe trip !.Your mom will be so happy!!

  2. I was thinking that gooseberries might not work with fish but then you put anise in it. Brilliant! It's like a breath of fresh flavour. Enjoy your time back home. Hope you enjoy it (I still can't find my head around enjoying Singapore).

  3. nice flavor combinations with the fish---gooseberries are not easily found where I live.
    Have a safe journey home and enjoy your time with your family.

  4. This is such an interesting way of prepping fish! We are able to get gooseberries from a local berry farmer ... perhaps I'll try this!

    Safe travels, Shu Han! Enjoy your family and friends and beautiful Singapore!

  5. i'm back home now and just had a wonderful home cooked broth by the best cook in the world, my mum (: thanks for all the good wishes! I'll be sharing more about the food from here!

  6. Looking forward to your recipes from home!
    I like this gooseberry recipe - gooseberries were abundant in my Grandma's garden but actually I now find it difficult to get hold of them.

  7. Wow! Nice to know that you got home safely! Now, you can share with us your mom's cooking too! :)

  8. I was just introduced to your site by Stephen, The Obsessive Chef ( - he was having a problem commenting and wanted me to see if I could...which I can :) He wanted me to give you his email address as he would like to stay in touch with you.

    Love your site, at least what I've seen so far!

  9. Yes, i'll try to get all her cooking secrets out of her ;)

    thanks jenn, i'll keep in touch with stephen! (:

  10. Delicious recipe .... I love the sharp gooseberries with the rich oily fish, yummm.

  11. That looks simple, yet unique. Wish I can find gooseberries here.