Kippers are the herring aid for health and taste

Kippers are the herring aid for health and taste

Packed full of flavour, nutritious and sustainable, the kipper has long been a Scottish breakfast favourite, but what is less well-known is that it is also a versatile kitchen recipe ingredient that deserves greater recognition for its smooth, smoky taste.

Kippers are a British tradition and a cultural phenomenon, which in the past were considered a delicacy, eaten for breakfast by the well-to-do and even said to a favourite of Queen Elizabeth II.

In years gone by, herring were landed all around the Scottish coast and taken directly to curing sheds, where some were salted in barrels and others were ‘kippered’, with the whole fish split, brined and cold smoked over wood chips. It was a true art, and the same master smoker skills are employed to this day, although the product offering in retailers has broadened to include kipper fillets.

The herring used for kippers today are caught and landed locally in the north-east of Scotland and Shetland by family-owned boats, the crews of which have worked hard over the years to put sustainability at the heart of their operation.

Herring fisherman Ally West, who is  co-skipper of the Fraserburgh based vessel Resolute, says: “I adore kippers as they have so much flavour and are fabulous cooked on the barbecue. The great thing about Scottish kippers is that our North Sea herring fishery is MSC certified for sustainability and has a low carbon footprint, which means consumers can buy them with confidence.”

Kippers are also good for you – brimming with heart-healthy Omega 3 fatty acids, and essential minerals and vitamins, including Vitamin D, which is so important for overall body health.

Pittenweem mobile fishmonger Gordon Halkett, who sells fish all over east central Scotland, says kippers have a particularly strong following among his older customers – and he is hopeful that younger consumers, too, will become more aware of their tremendous taste. Another plus point, he says, is their low-cost compared to most other types of fish.

“Kippers are a fabulous, value-for-money fish product that deserve much greater recognition than they currently have. As a breakfast treat, served with toast and butter, they are hard to beat – and, of course, they are a brilliant ingredient in recipes, including kedgeree and kipper pate, both of which are delicious.”

Kippers are easy to cook – microwaving is a convenient and quick method – and they are widely available to buy in supermarkets in packs or on fish counters. The great Scottish kipper could well be on the verge of a revival, bringing a great cultural tradition back to our tables.