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‘Deliciously smooth and oily’ was how food inspector Peter Koelewijn summed up the first new herring of the season, in an interview on Radio 1. The ‘Hollandse Nieuwe’ arrived at Scheveningen harbour on Sunday, where two Dutch fishing vessels brought some 20,000 barrels of it ashore – enough for 100,000 kilos of this most sought after Dutch delicacy.
These Dutch fishing boats spent an entire week at sea, scouring the rich waters around Scotland for the famous herring. The fish in this particular part of the North Sea feast on an abundance of plankton, which dramatically improves their flavour. “The fish boasts a fat content of between 19 and 21 percent, which simply cannot be beaten,” said the inspector, who could barely hide his enthusiasm. The herring season lasts just six weeks, during which time every one of these fish are caught. The herring are then immediately frozen, so that they can be enjoyed at a later date.
The first barrel of Hollandse Nieuwe caught at the start of the season is traditionally auctioned and the proceeds donated to charity. The auction takes place in Scheveningen today and this year the money will go to the Jeugdsportfonds (a Dutch Youth Sports Fund).
To enjoy Hollandse Nieuwe in the customary manner, serve raw with raw onions and gherkins and consume by holding the fish aloft by its tail and biting upwards.