Great British dishes - #1 Kippers

As the rest of the world seems to think that British food is, on the whole, bloody awful, we're going to publish a series of articles about traditional British dishes that are really quite delicious to educate and prove to our overseas friends that British dishes are every bit as good as those of any other country.

As it is "Seafood Week" in the UK from Friday 9 October to Friday 16 October 2015, we shall start with the humble kipper.

A kipper is a whole herring that has been butterflied, gutted, salted, and cold-smoked over smouldering woodchips, traditionally eaten for breakfast in Britain.

Kippers, along with other preserved smoked or salted fish such as the bloater and buckling, were also once commonly enjoyed as a high tea or supper treat, most popularly with inland and urban working-class populations before World War II.

The exact origin of kippers is unknown, though fish have been slit, gutted and smoked since time immemorial.  According to Mark Kurlansky, an American writer and journalist, "Smoked foods almost always carry with them legends about their having been created by accident - usually the peasant hung the food too close to the fire, and then, imagine his surprise the next morning when …"

Thomas Nashe wrote in 1599 about a fisherman from Lothingland in the Great Yarmouth area who discovered smoking herring by accident.

Another story of the accidental invention of kipper is set in 1843, with John Woodger of Seahouses in Northumberland, when fish for processing was left overnight in a room with a smoking stove.

These stories and others are known to be apocryphal because the word "kipper" long predates them. Smoking and salting of fish - in particular of spawning salmon and herring - predates 19th century Britain and indeed written history, probably going back as long as humans have been using salt to preserve food.

"Cold-smoked" fish that have not been salted for preservation must be cooked before being eaten safely. In the United Kingdom, kippers are today served for breakfast, lunch or dinner, though you can't beat starting the day by topping a kipper with a great lump of butter, baking in the oven for a few minutes and eating it with hot toast.

Try this kipper kedgeree for a modern twist.


Seafood Week, from Friday 9 October to Friday 16 October 2015, is about giving seafood the recognition it deserves and thanking the people who produce it, from the fishermen hauling in their fresh catch in all weathers to the chefs who serve it to tables. There is a fantastic range and variety of seafood in the UK and we want to celebrate that by shining a light on the industry and its fantastic produce.

Every day during seafood week the MMO will tweet a link to a mouth-watering recipe, each one showing the vast possibilities available from the variety of stocks caught by hard working UK fishermen.

Visit to find out more.


Image by Linda.