Pollan, a member of the salmon family, are one of only a handful of fish species native to Ireland that have remained with us following the extinction impacts of Ice Ages.
In science terms we call them a glacial relict, left over from the Saalian Ice Age (200,000 years ago), having lost their previous migratory behaviour as a consequence of sea temperature and salinity rises.
Instead, the Pollan became restricted to the temperate waters of Lough Neagh. Essentially it’s fresh water herring and is in season now for a limited time. Most of the fish is exported to Switzerland where it’s cherished. A few restaurants in Mid Ulster serve Pollan but it’s mainly ignored.
We shun this naturally wild fish in favour of farmed varieties imported from Turkey and Asia.
We used to export most of our lobster and crab in the summer to France and Spain but that has been decreased because of the demand from customers here. It’s an eternal hope that one day we’ll keep and cook most of the Pollan here and allow the Swiss a small percentage.
Traditionally Pollan was fried in bacon fat and a few oats added to the pan. Like its seafaring cousin the Herring, it has a natural affinity with bacon and aromatic ingredients. In the recipe here I’ve paired it with a beetroot and apple salad.
The pollan is brushed with a cider glaze at the end of cooking. Because it’s quite a small fish it cooks in no time – proper fast food. The beetroot and apple provide a yin and yang of earthy and sweet crunch to accompany the delicate fish.
You can source these silver darlings of the lough directly from the fishery in the village of Toome. If you can’t wait to get home to try them, the local chippie often does a pollan supper which is worth the drive alone.
The greengrocers are still well stocked with citrus fruit which is at its best now. Posset is a good way of making a simple but sublime dessert out of any lemons or oranges that need to be used up.
Citrus juice and zest are added to boiled cream and sugar. The acid in the juice sets it with a crème brulee like texture without the drama of high maintenance eggs.
For some crunch I’ve added some sugared pistachios. These are coated in a hot sugar syrup and mixed well over heat to prevent them from caramelizing.
For a flavour foil to cut through the creaminess of the posset, I’ve added some cubes of citrus jelly. A sweetened juice is set with gelatine. If you use a combination of orange with something sourer it has the ideal astringency.
What you’ll need
8 pollan fillets
200ml dry local cider
1 tablespoon honey
Oil for cooking and salt for seasoning the fish
1 medium beetroot, peeled and grated
2 apples, sliced and cut into match sticks
1 red onion, finely sliced
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
50ml olive oil or good local rapeseed oil
½ teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
Boil the cider and honey to a thick syrup.
Pat the pollan fillets dry with kitchen paper and season with salt.
Heat oil in a large non-stick pan (if your pan isn’t non-stick line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper) and drizzle over oil. Place fish skin side down and press with a fish slice to stop curling up.
Cook for 2 minutes then some of the cider glaze. Cook to glaze then flip over. Cook for another minute and then drizzle over some more of the glaze.
For the salad whisk the mustard, vinegar and sugar in a bowl and whisk in the oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Toss in the beetroot, apples and onion and mix well.
Serve alongside the pollan fillets.
What you’ll need
600ml double cream
150g castor sugar
Zest of 2 citrus fruit (lime, pink grapefruit, blood orange and lemon all good) – you’ll need 100ml juice
Boil the cream and sugar for 2 minutes then remove from heat and add the zest and juice. Cool and pour into glasses and chill to set.
For the sugared pistachios
75g castor sugar
60g shelled pistachios
Cook the sugar and water in a pan until syrupy but not caramel coloured. Add the pistachio and mix well to coat and become crystallised. Place on a sheet of parchment to cool.
For the citrus jelly
100ml freshly squeezed citrus juice (orange with a combination of lime, lemon or pink grapefruit works well)
1 sheet gelatine, soaked in cold water for 10 minutes
Simmer the juice and sugar until sugar has dissolved. Add the soaked gelatine leaf. Pour into a square plastic container, lined with cling and chill to set. Cut into cubes.
To serve – place cubes of jelly onto the posset and scatter over the pistachios.