James Bond food matjes herrings

Matjes herrings with cream and onions

How does James Bond kill time in Berlin before attempting to kill a KGB sniper? In the short story “The Living Daylights” (1966), we find out. He lunches on scrambled eggs (what else?), visits the zoo and other sights of Berlin, and then, feeling rather peckish, has a late afternoon meal of matjes herrings (juvenile herrings preserved in salt) smothered in cream and onion rings. James Bond has done well to choose herrings. In the cookbook, German Cooking (1953), author Robin Howe claimed that “herrings probably get the finest treatment in the world in Germany.”

Serves 2

  • 4 matjes herring fillets
  • 1 onion, peeled and sliced into rings
  • 2 tbsp white wine
  • 60-100g samphire
  • 100ml double cream
  • Black pepper
  • Oil for frying, approx. 1–2 tbsp
  • Flour for dusting

Heat the oil in a frying pan over a medium heat. Dust the fillets with some flour, then lay them in the pan. Fry for 2 to 3 minutes, then turn the fillets over. Fry for another 2 minutes.

While the fillets are cooking, heat a knob of butter or a little oil in an another frying pan, and stir fry the samphire for 1-2 minutes until it has wilted. Take the pan off the heat and put to one side.

Once cooked, transfer the fish fillets to a plate and keep warm. Put the onion rings into the pan and fry gently for 3 to 4 minutes over a medium heat. When they begin to soften, add the wine and continue to cook, reducing the liquid almost completely.

Taking the pan off the heat, pour in the cream and stir to combine with the onion rings and wine. Return the pan to a medium heat and allow the sauce to warm through. Season with a pinch of black pepper. When the cream begins to bubble, remove the pan from the heat.

To serve the herrings (two fillets per person), spoon the sauce generously around the fish and top with a dollop of the samphire.

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