Rigby’s Encyclopaedia of the Herring

A work in progress with no end in sight

GOLDEN HERRING

On the golden coloured, more lightly smoked version of red herring, once sold extensively in the Mediterranean, together with recipes

GOLDEN HERRING

A whole, ungutted fish, quite highly salted and moderately cold-smoked, the golden herring is a milder variant of red herring and is cured particularly for the market in Southern Europe, to where the red has been exported since medieval times. Salty red herring is used as a bar snack in Greece, as an encouragement to drinking.

At Brighton Oriental Stores, an excellent, small Asian supermarket in Newastle upon Tyne’s Brighton Grove, I recently come across what looked like golden herring, marketed as Arenga and labeled as a product of Greece (the Greek for herring is rénga). Atlantic herrings don’t swim in the Mediterranean, the Aegean or the Ionian Sea, so this suggests the frozen / fresh fish is now being shipped from Northern Europe and cured there. The shift to domestic production might be the result of the financial crisis in Greece.

If you can get golden or red herring – try fishmongers catering for Caribbean communities – there’s a great Greek and / or Egyptian recipe for arenga. If it’s on the redder, highly salted end, soak it first.

ARENGA
Heat the golden herring briefly in a dry frying pan to loosen the skin. Skin and fillet the fish, then cut the fillets into bite-sized chunks. Chop three spring onions and an apple (peeled and cored). Mix the herring, onions and chopped apple with plenty of good olive oil.

It makes a great starter or the base for a salad. It would work with kippers from the slightly saltier, more smoked end – say Craster kippers – if you can’t find red or golden herring.

Recipes from HS Fishing

I first came across golden herring at Great Yarmouth’s HS Fishing Company in the late 1990s. The firm, possibly the town’s last smokehouse, sadly closed in 2018, but here are some other recipe suggestions from a promotional leaflet they gave me at the time.

GOLDEN LUNCH
Serve cold without cooking by removing the skin and bones and dressing with a little olive oil and a few slices of fresh lemon. Accompany with a crisp green salad and crusty fresh warm bread.

WILD WEST DINNER
After removing the skin and bone, lightly grill the golden herring, if possible over charcoal. Serve with a generous portion of mixed beans, including white haricot, blackeye, chick peas and green lentils.

HIGHLAND CELEBRATION
A traditional recipe for a very special occasion. Slice open the golden herring along its length. Pour a generous measure of whisky or brandy into the golden herring. Ignite the dish and take it still flaming to the table. It is ready to eat the moment the flames have gone out. Serve with crusty fresh oatmeal bread.

Golden Herring, HS Fishing of Great Yarmouth, late 1990s