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Marinated Pilchards

Cornwall, Devon

(Or Mara or Marra Fish)

Pilchards marinated in sugar and vinegar with spices. Baked. Prepared at home, or commercially with a solid reputation for very long keeping.

Perry's Marinated Pilchards
The Cornishman - Thursday 24 October 1878

Correspondent Steven Siebert remembers that up to the 1980's, in St Ives; "there still just existed, the tradition of “Mara Pilchards” or “Mara Fish” this appeared to be a seasonal dish, from the days when the pilchards were a huge part of the Cornish fishing economy. The recipe was to bake the fish in a light pickle as described in your recipe except that the aromats used came in the form of a lightly ground mix of spices similar to the ones you list. This powdered mix was known as Marra Spice, and could be bought from the local chemists during the season."

The heroes of 'The Adventures of Harry Revel', by Sir Arthur Thomas Quiller-Couch enjoy a Devonian "miscellaneous feast - a cheek of pork, a loaf, a saffron cake; a covered jar which, being opened, diffused the fragrance of marinated pilchards; a bagful of periwinkles, a bunch of enormous radishes, a dish of cream wrapped about in cabbage-leaves"

The original source of this receipt isn't known. Can you help? editor@foodsofengland.co.uk

Cornish Marinated Pilchards

6 pilchards (or mackerel)
3 bay leaves
10 pepper corns
4 cloves
1 tsp brown sugar
1/4 pint cold tea
1/4 pint malt vinegar
pinch of salt

Clean and fillet the fish, removing heads. Lay the fillets in a roomy dish. Combine the other ingredients and pour over the fish. Cook in a hot oven. Leave to cool.

See also:
Salt Pilchards
Marinated Pilchards
Pilchard Pie
Stargazy Pie

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