Silver Darlings - Georgina Campbell's New Product Review supported by BIM

Silver Darlings - Kirsti O'KellyThe history of Ireland and the little herring has been intertwined for many a generation, with the success or failure of the herring season having a major impact on coastal communities.

In recent decades the herring has slipped from consumer awareness, but a comeback is now in sight, beginning with its increasing popularity on menus - and, thanks to the vision and determination of one woman, some delicious convenience products are now wowing a whole new generation over to this once traditional food.

Originally from Finland, where marinating herring is a skill passed down from mother to daughter, chef Kirsti O'Kelly is Ireland’s only herring pickler and her ‘Silver Darlings’ are unique.

Having worked here for fifteen years, she saw an opportunity to introduce Irish consumers to herrings with a modern Nordic twist - a much more refined and complex product than the more familiar rollmops, her ‘Silver Darlings’ range includes tried and trusted Finnish flavour combinations and some new ones of her own creation. With Nordic cuisine currently in the spotlight, this has proved an ideal time to demonstrate their versatility.

Silver DarlingsIn Nordic countries, marinated herrings are traditionally enjoyed as a starter and often paired with rye sourdough bread or baby boiled potatoes. They are also used in salads with pungent leaves, beetroot or boiled eggs and every conceivable kind of vodka or schnapps.

Sourced from Island Seafoods in Donegal, Kirsti’s herring are marinated in a combination of mild vinegars and spices which dissolve the herring bones and keep the integrity of the fish flesh, allowing it to take on the subtle flavours of aromatic spices like mustard seeds, sandalwood, cinnamon, bay leaves, cloves, pink peppercorns and fresh herbs such as dill, tarragon and coriander. Silver Darlings use 100% natural ingredients and 100% Irish herring.

Silver DarlingsAlthough only in production since 2013, Kirsti set about realising her dreams well before that by signing onto a Limerick City Enterprise Board ‘Start Your Own Business’ course, getting valuable product feedback from customers at her Limerick Milk Market stall and enlisting assistance from BIM’s Seafood Development Centre (SDC) in Clonakilty, Co Cork.

The SDC has the technology and facilities to allow companies to develop and test innovative products before committing to capital expenditure. Following an extensive period working on new product development, labelling and regulatory requirements, sourcing a herring supplier and getting advice on food safety management systems for her premises, the ‘Silver Darlings’ product was launched to the food service sector in March 2013.

Thanks to Kirsti’s background knowledge, innovative approach and methodical business preparation, her ‘Silver Darlings’ quickly found favour - initially with some leading chefs, including Jess Murphy of Galway’s renowned Kai Café & Restaurant, and Tom Flavin in the Strand Hotel in Limerick. Once Redmond's Fine Foods took on distribution, other quality-conscious restaurants - like Eastern Seaboard in Drogheda, The Mustard Seed in Ballingarry and O’Connells in Donnybrook, Dublin - soon followed.

More recently Silver Darlings have hit the shelves in a number of high end outlets, including Avoca, Fallon & Byrne, Morton's, Caviston's and Urru, speciality seafood stores like Wrights of Howth, and the Real Olive Company stalls in the Greater Dublin area and The English Market in Cork.

Sold in smartly branded 210g jars with informative labelling, prices range from €3.90 to €4.50.

Silver DarlingsPRODUCT LIST and Serving Suggestions

• Fennel & Tarragon Herring

Despite the individuality of the flavourings, the herring flavour is uncompromised and the crunchy texture of the fennel and, especially, the pink peppercorns, is particularly appealing. While delicious on its own with sourdough (plain or toasted), the flavour combinations are subtle enough to work well with other foods. Use instead of or with smoked salmon; works well with creamy spreads and egg dishes.

• Mustard Herring

Mild sweet Dijon mustard marinade with tarragon. Try with simply steamed baby new potatoes and side salad; also works really well in sandwiches because there’s no liquid pickle, just soft, thick and rounded ‘creamy’ mustard dressing.

• Balsamic Herring

A good all rounder, this Dutch style pickled herring has a very high fish content (94%) and, despite the dark colour of the pickling liquid - containing both balsamic vinegar and red wine vinegar - the fish remains ‘itself’ and is complemented by mild onion and spices including sandalwood. Works in seafood platters, salads, great with goats cheese.

• Star of the Sea Herring

A clever name, playing on both religious/maritime connotations and the star anise spicing that’s used here with cumin and lemon, Star of the Sea Herring is a very versatile product. The classic dill flavouring partners brilliantly with potato: try it with potato salad with apple and celery and yoghurt dressing

• Pimento Herring

This variety introduces herring with attitude and, although billed as ‘pickled Nordic style’ like the others in the range, the influence of much sunnier climes is seen in the warm colours and smoky flavours of paprika, Cayenne, chilli and garlic. Even the pickling liquid takes colour from the roasted red peppers suggesting, perhaps, Spanish or Mexican partnerships. Try serving with tortilla, seafood tapas, or with sour cream and mixed leafs in a sandwich or wrap.

• Midsummer Herring

A very typical Scandinavian dill pickle, with white wine lemon and vegetables (celery, spring onion, carrot, cucumber). Great in salads and with new potatoes.

• Beetroot & Horseradish Herring

Especially popular at Christmas, the flavour is very mild and sweet with just a hint of horseradish. The deep red colour of the beetroot permeates the herring flesh; it works very well with earthy root vegetables although its mild flavour allows many successful combinations.



BIM Seafood Circle

Kirsti O'Kelly lives in Limerick with her husband Eoin and two daughters. She pickles her fish in Hospital, Co. Limerick ably assisted by local man Kevin Dollery. You can find her every Saturday at Limerick’s Milk Market.

For more information on Silver Darlings; follow @silverdarlings1 on Twitter or contact Kirsti on 086-0661132 or

Supported by BIM

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