Lough Neagh pollan are fresh water herrings, mainly found in Lough Neagh, and were trapped in the deep murky waters during the last ice age. They’re in season only for a limited time in the months of February and March and they’re as elusive as the scarlet pimpernel! Only a few fishermen catch them now and sadly most of this beautiful silver hued fish is exported to Switzerland where it’s prized and cherished. Back home it’s rare to see it on menus and most people aren’t aware of this national treasure. My mother remembers having pollan in the now closed, Bluebird Cafe in Antrim when she was young. They fried it simply in butter and then served it with straight off the griddle, hot soda farls. She says this is still one of the most delicious things she’s ever eaten. When you have something as good and natural as this there’s no point in gilding the lily. There’s a wonderful scene in the movie “Julie and Julia” starring Meryl Streep as the late, great, chef Julia Child, when she gets very excited about eating sole menuiere in a Parisien bistro. This classic fish dish is spanking fresh sole, cooked on the bone and anointed with nothing more than a copious amount of butter and a squeeze of lemon.
If the French had such a wonderful fish as the pollan they’d celebrate it with a festival and probably a national holiday! We tend to ignore the bounties we have like this pollan and another gift from the Lough in the form of eels. They’re a rarity on menus here – you have to travel to Amsterdam and London to really see how our local fish is appreciated.
If you want to try pollan you could source it from your fishmonger but hurry as the season is nearly at an end. Or you could drive to the Fried Fish Warehouse in Toome, where they serve it all year round. According to them this prized fish is “ridiculously popular” and they have people travelling from all around Northern Ireland to sample it. They also serve perch from the lough as they’re keen to use sustainable fish as much as possible. They source them from Quinn Brothers in Ardboe and full marks to them for making the most of what’s available to them and for highlighting this fabulous local product.
Oily fish like pollan, herrings and eel are so good for you as they’re a rich source of Omega-3 fatty acids which help guard against a range of diseases, from cancer to heart disease, depression to arthritis. My recipe this week is for cider glazed pollan. You could substitute mackerel or herring. Beetroot and horseradish are also in season at the moment and serendipitously are a great pairing with oily fish. I’ve included a recipe for a warm potato and horseradish salad and also a raw beetroot salad.
Healthy delicious food that celebrates a national culinary treasure!
Cider glazed Pollan, with warm potatoes and horseradish, raw beetroot salad Cider glazed Pollan
- 4 pollan fillets, pin boned – ask your fishmonger
- 100ml dry cider – Armagh Cider Company’s Carson’s Crisp would be ideal
- 4 tablespoons cider vinegar
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 2 tablespoons demerara sugar
- 1 tablespoon Broighter Gold rapeseed oil
Place the cider, vinegar, honey and demerara sugar in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Continue to boil until the mixture has reduced by half. Heat the oil in a large frying pan until hot and place the fillets skin side down and hold down with a fish slice. Cook for 1 minute then season with salt and flip over. Cook for 2 minutes on this side then add the glaze. Baste and cook until most of the liquid has evaporated and has coated the fish. Warm Potatoes and horseradish
- 4 medium potatoes, peeled
- 2 teaspoons grated fresh horseradish or 1 tablespoon horseradish sauce
- 2 tablespoons red wine or cider vinegar
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 2 teaspoons chopped fresh dill
- 4 tablespoons Broighter Gold rapeseed oil
- salt and pepper to taste
- 4 finely chopped scallions
Boil the potatoes until cooked, drain well and slice into quarters. Whisk the horseradish, vinegar, oil and mustard together and season to taste. Gently toss in the hot potatoes, dill and scallions. Raw Beetroot Salad
- 2 large beetroots, peeled and coarsely grated
- 2 red onions, peeled and finely sliced
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
- salt and fresh ground pepper
- 1 tablespoon Pomegranate molasses ( available in Asian shops, good delis and some supermarkets)
- 1 tablespoon cider vinegar
- 4 tablespoons Broighter gold rapeseed oil or 4 tablespoons Clandeboye yoghurt
Toast the cumin seeds in a dry pan over medium heat for 30 seconds and place in a bowl. Add the coriander seeds pomegranate molasses and vinegar. Mix in the onions and season well. Leave for 30 minutes then add the beetroot and oil. Mix well and check seasoning.