I have been meaning to post this recipe a long time ago, but no matter what I did this dish always looked unappetising. Finally I started to think it was a part of its charm, visible only to an adventurous gourmet’s or a herring fan’s eyes. My cousin had discovered it at a party where this salad was the only item no one wanted to touch. As a daring gourmet, she took a generous portion, urged by the hostess, who told her that as soon as one of the skeptical guests tasted it, it would disappear in no time at all. She was right and I’m happy my cousin asked for the recipe. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have discovered the most irresistible herring salad which has been my favourite for almost ten years. If you like herring, you will find yourself unable to stop eating it. If you are a beetroot hater, you must absolutely taste it anyway (I know people who hate beetroot but love this salad). If you are Mr. Three-Cookies (from the Three-Cookies blog), I bet you will adore it! (For those who don’t know the Three-Cookies blog, its author is a big herring – and of course cookies – connoisseur and if I eat more of this fish this year, it’s certainly thanks to his inventive and frequent herring dishes.)
This complete-meal salad calls for soused herring (thank you Charles), labeled “matjes”/”maatjes”/”matjas” and sometimes simply “herring in oil”. Since apparently matjes can in some countries mean herring without oil (thank you, Mr. Three-Cookies), I thought the best advice would be to say the herring used here shouldn’t be very sour. All the ingredients are perfect paired with herrings and the layering isn’t only for decoration. The order of layers is not accidental either. Onions must absolutely touch the herring, since their flavours merge when you put the salad in the fridge (several hours are obligatory!). Potatoes have a neutral taste, so they don’t disrupt the onion and herring combination. Eggs come just under the mayonnaise (how could I possible separate eggs from mayonnaise?) and the beetroot brings a nice, sweetish, refreshing touch in the middle.
I will be honest: the more mayonnaise you put on top, the better the salad will be. On the other hand, if you want to make this lighter, you can mix the mayonnaise with some yogurt or sour cream, but the taste will be slightly “thinner”. The ingredients’ amounts are totally up to you, as long as no layer is skipped. The original recipe calls for grated eggs, but I have discovered chopping them finely creates the same taste result, so I stopped the arduous process of egg grating.
I would have almost forgotten to mention this salad is an excellent hangover soother.
If you have difficulties with finding pickled herring, look for Russian or Polish grocers. They will certainly carry both vinegared and “matjes” herrings.
If you look for an easier, but delicious herring salad, try my Herring and Potato Salad.
Preparation: 1 hour + at least 5 hours in the fridge (but it’s best left overnight)
Ingredients (serves 4 or 6 as a main dish):
250 g drained “matjes” (soused) herring
2 medium onions
4 big potatoes
2 big beetroots
4 – 5 eggs
10 heaped tablespoons mayonnaise (or more), or a mixture of mayonnaise + sour cream/yogurt (don’t use low-fat yogurt)
Cook the potatoes, the beetroots and the eggs.
Let them cool down.
Cut the herring into bite-sized pieces and place at the bottom of a big salad dish.
Chop the onion and sprinkle over the herring.
Peel the potatoes and grate them over the onions.
Season generously with salt and pepper.
Peel the beetroots and grate them over the potatoes.
Chop the eggs finely and sprinkle over the beetroot layer.
Season with salt and pepper and cover with mayonnaise.
Cover the bowl with cling film and put into the fridge for at least 5 hours, but the best results are after a night in the fridge.