Ling longing: a delicious traditional Irish fish

Don’t be put off if you are unable to buy salted ling– it’s very easy to make

Cava Bodega fishcakes: they’re simple to make but of course the fact they’re deep-fried and served with lemon mayonnaise makes them more desirable. Photograph: Julia Dunin

Cava Bodega fishcakes: they’re simple to make but of course the fact they’re deep-fried and served with lemon mayonnaise makes them more desirable. Photograph: Julia Dunin

 

Though not as famous as its counterpart (salted cod), salted ling has long been a staple of rural Irish fishing communities. In his 1948 essay The Ling in Irish Commerce, published by the Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland, Arthur EJ Went cites examples from 1364 (Ballycotton, Co Cork) and later in 1537 (Dungarven, Co Waterford) of the importance of this fish. During the 17th century, ling was exported from Galway to England and Spain. The ling is, according to Went, “an ancient Irish food” and “is part of the Irish heritage”. Salted fish was most likely introduced by the Vikings, who also introduced it to the Spanish.

Salted fish is as old as salt itself. As with cod, ling was preserved by salting and drying the fillets. In this way, it kept for a long time. Though the practice of salting ling has all but died away due to refrigerating and freezing, it is still sometimes sold in Cork. If you cannot find your own salted ling, it is easy to make. Simple liberally salt the fillets and leave for five days in the fridge. Drain off the brine as it collects at the bottom of the container. Rinse the fillet and then hang to dry in a cool place. Once hard it will last indefinitely. However, the harder the fillet the longer it will take to desalinate.

Overnight

Often, I just leave them in the fridge (skip the drying phase) and place them in fresh water overnight at room temperature the day before I need them. We do this every week in Cava Bodega as salted fish cakes are one of the most popular things on the menu. They’re a simple combination of mashed potato, fried onion, salted fish and parsley. Of course, the fact that they’re deep-fried and served with lemon mayonnaise makes them more desirable. Poached salted ling in milk also pairs beautifully with the salty bitterness of fresh samphire, which is season in August. Gently poach the fish in warm milk for two-three minutes and serve with some fresh samphire and lemon. 

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
GO BACK
Error Image
The account details entered are not currently associated with an Irish Times subscription. Please subscribe to sign in to comment.
Comment Sign In

Forgot password?
The Irish Times Logo
Thank you
You should receive instructions for resetting your password. When you have reset your password, you can Sign In.
The Irish Times Logo
Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.
Screen Name Selection

Hello

Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
Forgot Password
Please enter your email address so we can send you a link to reset your password.

Sign In

Your Comments
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Standards. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or by filling out this form. New comments are only accepted for 3 days from the date of publication.