Here’s another one of those dishes I hated as a kid growing up on the islands. Both the smoked herrings and the cabbage were etched into my don’t eat list, but as an adult they’re two ingredients I not only use on the regular, but crave. The scent of dad roasting the smoked herrings (back then the choice were whole fish) on an open flame to give it extra flavor and to help remove the skin and bones, wasn’t pleasant. That said.. even when using the fillets as I’m about to do, know that it will impart a distinct scent throughout your kitchen/home.
8 smoked herring fillets
3-4 cups cabbage (about 1/3 of a medium cabbage)
2 cloves garlic
2 birds eye pepper (any spicy pepper you like)
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoon olive oil
3-4 sprigs thyme
1 large tomato (or 8 grape)
Important: If you’re doing this recipe gluten free, do go through the entire list of ingredients to ensure they meet with your specific gluten free dietary needs.
The first thing we’ve got to do is shred the smoked herring fillets. To make this step easy, place the fillets in a bowl and cover with hot/boiling water. Allow them to soak (until they are cool enough to handle) then pour the water out, squeeze dry and shred. The fillets can be a bit oily and have a very strong ‘smoke’ scent, so you may want to wear gloves or the scent will remain on your fingers for some time. You will see tiny bones which are harmless for the most part.. if you come across any tough bones or bits, do remove and discard.
As the fillets soak, you can prep the other ingredients. Finely chop the garlic, bird’s eye pepper (you can use scotch bonnet or any pepper you like), chop the scallions and tomato. Remove the outer layer and core of the cabbage and shred. Remember that by including the seeds of the pepper I’m asking for HEAT.. remove the seeds it you want to tone things down a bit.
Heat the olive oil in a wide pan on a low flame, then add the shredded smoked herring, toss then add everything except the cabbage and tomato. Stir well and cook for 3-4 minutes.
It’s now time to add the shredded cabbage, toss and top with the tomato. Please don’t use a lid or the cabbage will have the tendency to spring a bit of liquid. Turn the heat up to medium and cook for 4-5 minutes. You can personalize the dish by cooking longer (I like the cabbage to have a bit of a crunch) and add salt. I didn’t need salt as I find that the cured/smoked herrings are already salty.
While using the prepared herring fillets is not ‘traditional’, it’s very convenient and you won’t be able to tell the difference in the final dish. Well, my dad does as he doesn’t get that ‘roasted’ flavor he appreciates. If using the whole fish (dry smoked) you may have to boil them instead of just topping with hot water as I did, before you remove the skin and bones.