Saturday, 25 August 2012

Ancient stone licker on my plate

I’m not a big fan of seafood. Some white fish is nice as well as salmon but that’s about it all for me. Except these three things. A flounder (Platichthys flesus), an eelpout (Zoarces viviparous) and a river lamprey (Lampetra fluviatilis).

Tonight I enjoyed my lamprey. To prepare it’s quite easy. We just roast them. We usually buy them already prepared but it is possible to do it at home if you keep some simple rules in mind. Send the family out for a day, open the kitchen window and then start only! They smell horrible when roasting. Neighbours will complain! The rest is easy! 

We use wooden buckets to make things nicer. Layer after a layer of roasted lampreys go neatly in the bucket, then a lid on top and on top of a lid – a stone adding some pressure while they cool off... And then the gourmand meal can start. A sprinkle of lemon juice and a loaf of fresh bread is all what I need for complete happiness. (It is easy to eat it into public – just cut in pieces and eat – no bones to worry about at all!)

I went the easiest way – just bought some at the mall tonight. They are not cheap - $ 30 per kilo. 

The lamprey feels firm and soft at the same time. The flesh just beneath the skin sprang to the bite. The interior flesh is like marrow: tender, slightly firm and a little mealy all at once. A thin rip-cord of cartilage running through the middle of the fish adds a springy accent. It’s oily, but different than eel and different than salmon. I do not like oily fish but lamprey is an exception. In everything. Because it’s not even a fish. 

The common name "lamprey" is derived from lampetra, which translated from Latin means "stone licker" (lambere "to lick" + petra "stone"). 

Lacking paired fins, adult lampreys have large eyes, one nostril on the top of the head, and seven gill pores on each side of the head. The unique morphological characteristics of lampreys, such as their cartilaginous skeleton, suggest they are the sister taxon of all living jawed vertebrates (gnathostomes), and are usually considered the most basal group of the Vertebrata.

It is quite commercially important as annual catch each year is about 170 tons here.
In Europe you can meet lamprey from southern Norway to France, including Ireland and the British Isles. It lives here, in the Baltic Sea and along the French and western Italian coasts of the Mediterranean Sea as well. Absent from Black, Caspian and Polar seas. Landlocked populations can be seen from Lake Mjosa in Norway, Lakes Ladoga and Onega, upper Volga in Russia, Loch Lomond in Scotland, some Finnish lakes and possibly in Lough Neagh in Ireland.

Still rare in some areas, but populations have markedly recovered following earlier pollution problems in central and western Europe.

Anyway, if you are brave and have a chance, take a try – cold, even slightly chilled roasted lamprey with some lemon juice (just some) and some bread... Yum-yum!


  1. I will leave them to you xx not a lover at fish... and your description has not done anything to tempt me !! lol x

  2. That's the point, Diane! It would be quite boring to compare our fruit cake recipes, isn't it? I suspect that not many who read my blog ever tried a lamprey - everywhere were people eat them, they are quite specific and expensive element of local quisine. "And Now for Something Completely Different..." LOL