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 ):