Out of the Ocean


Jack Stein was born in Cornwall and is the middle son of three boys to celebrated chef Rick Stein. He began his career as a kitchen porter during school holidays in The Seafood Restaurant kitchen. At 16 he moved to front of house where he remained throughout his education. Jack completed a BSc in Psychology and an MA in Ancient History at Cardiff University.

In 2003, he returned to The Seafood Restaurant as commis chef then after two years, took up the position of sous chef at Rick Stein’s Café for another year.

Following this, Jack then went on to Paris to do a stage at La Régalade, which ignited a passion for travel and a period of stage work all over the world. During this time, Jack travelled to Australia for an extended stay at Tetsuya’s in Sydney, before exploring the Far East and Japan.

On his return to Padstow, he re-entered The Seafood Restaurant as sous chef before moving on to a tournant role across the whole company. He is currently the head of development for the company, leading the installation and introduction of a development kitchen for the business, where new recipes and ingredients will be tested.

Image ©Robert Sroga
Follow Jack on Twitter @Jackstein

Jack on herring

Growing up, herring always had a place on our Sunday breakfast table as the ‘ubiquitous’ kipper. I regard this as one of the finest fish caught off the British Isles and in the winter and early spring Cornish herring are at their best.

What I love is the appearance; they exude beauty with their sleek silvery dart-like profile. This seems something that a lot of oily fish have, from the striped mackerel to the sardine. Secondly, I love their taste. The oily flesh and soft skin provide a perfect base ingredient to build on. Finally and very importantly, they are plentiful around the Cornish coast and, as a result, relatively inexpensive.

Oily fish always pair well with acidity; the two balance themselves leaving a well-rounded flavour. This acidity also helps to preserve the fish, which is why you commonly see them pickled in Scandinavian dishes such as rollmops. With this dish, I have made a pickling liquor which has a hint of savoury smokiness from the Japanese dashi granules – a tip of the hat to the kipper. These are not essential, but relatively easy to find in good supermarkets or online and a great ingredient for adding depth to a variety of dishes.

The fish is briefly salted and pickled to add flavour and firm up the flesh and the liquor is reserved, flavoured, heated and used for the slaw. The balance works really well and is very simple, a nice finishing touch are the fried capers for textural contrast.

It’s popular to speak of herring’s health benefits, I grew up eating them and I seem to be fairly well adjusted, so take from that what you will!

Pan fried herring fillets, hot pickled slaw and fried capers

Serves 2 as a starter
Ingredients

  • 4 herring fillets
  • 100ml rice wine or white wine vinegar
  • 25ml water
  • 1⁄2 tsp dashi granules (optional)
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 50g carrot, finely sliced
  • 25g shallot, finely sliced
  • 2 juniper berries
  • 2 black peppercorns
  • 1 star anise
  • A sprig of thyme
  • Small pinch of chilli
  • Knob of butter
  • 1 tsp capers
  • A few springs of chervil
  • Salt to taste

Method

  1. Salt the flesh side of the herring and leave for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, create the pickling liquid by combining the vinegar, water and dashi granules in a pan and warm gently over a low heat.
  2. Wash the salt off the herring and lay it on a plate, skin side up and pour over the pickling liquid, so that it covers the flesh side. Leave to pickle for 10 minutes, then remove from the pickling liquid and pat dry, reserving the liquid.
  3. Heat the vegetable oil in a pan and fry the capers until crispy. Leave to dry on kitchen paper.
  4. For the slaw, cut the carrot and shallot into thin strips and place in a pan with the juniper berries, peppercorns, star anise, thyme, chilli and a good pinch of salt. Pour the reserved pickling liquid over the slaw, bring to the boil and take off the heat.
  5. Take the herring fillets and fry them skin side down on a moderate heat for 11⁄2–2 minutes, add a knob of butter to finish.
  6. Once cooked, assemble with some of the warm pickled slaw, the fillets of herring, capers and a few sprigs of chervil. Deglaze the pan with some of the pickling liquor, reduce briefly and use to sauce the plate.

Image © David Griffen.

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