Some people are happy to eat kippers for lunch, and others at supper, but for me, kippers are for breakfast.
Craster kippers have their devotees. I’ve heard kippers from Loch Fyne highly spoken of.There is a great tradition of kippers from Mallaig and Stornaway, and there are a number of dedicated one-man band, artisan kipper smokers experimenting with beech, cherry, ash and other exotic woods, but it’s the Manx kipper that finds pride of place on the plate in my house. Not too large (an important factor when considering what comes after the kipper – see below), not too smoky, lustrous and tanned on top, the skin gilded and glistening with healthy oils, the flesh firm and sweet to the tooth.
On the bone, of course. I have no truck with kipper fillets.
I turn on the oven to 160C/325F/Gas3. I place my kipper reverently in a shallow earthenware dish; pour boiling water over; it and slide it into the oven for 10 minutes or so; take it out; pour off the water and remove it to a plate. This is essentially a variant on the classic jugging technique.
I don’t believe in grilling or baking. It’s too easy to dry the kipper out. Nor do I hold with popping knobs of butter on top. The fish has enough oils in it already and butter coats and cloaks the flavour.
I have had satisfactory results from microwaving in the past, but only in other people’s kitchens. I don’t have a microwave in mine. The method limits kipper odour fall out, but it’s strictly utilitarian and lacks the steady ritual of the water/oven method.
Tea. Oolong or Lapsang Souchong. The tannins refresh. The smokiness of the tea elides naturally with that of that of the kipper. No milk. Milk masks the elegance of the flavours.
Coffee is too brash, too bouncy, too intense. Completely wrong.
A single slice of cold sourdough toast loaded with unsalted butter (the toast must be cold so that it doesn’t melt the butter) and marmalade (homemade, naturally; it’s the only way you can be sure of the requisite level of bitterness and the correct size of the peel chunks).
The sourdough gives a breath of astringency, the toasting the necessary crunch and firmness to hold a proper layer of unsalted butter that closes around your teeth like cold duck fat. Finally, the sharp, astringent marmalade cleans your mouth of all trace of the kipper.
Now you’re ready to face the day and the day is ready to face you.