Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Salted Herring, Estonian Style

Did you know that Estonia has a 'national fish', in a similar vein to countries having chosen a 'national flower', a 'national drink', a 'national bird' etc? Well, we do since 2006 and it's a Baltic Herring (Clupea harengus membras). However, the big cousin on that tiny fish - Atlantic herring (Clupea harengus) is very popular as well, and here's the most popular way of serving Atlantic herring in Estonia. You need salted Atlantic herring filets for this dish, available either at deli or fish counters or in a canned versions in your supermarket aisle. If the fish is too salty, then soak it in milk or several rounds of cold water first.

I must admit that I'm not a big fan of 'raw' fish, and salted herring belongs to that category of fish, too (I know it's cured, but it's hot heat-treated). But I served this at our Christmas Eve Dinner, where it was universally praised and finished very quickly. You cannot beat an old traditional favourite, can you..

PS I warn you, there are some pretty strong flavours combined in this dish, so it's not a dainty and elegant fish first course, but a full-on one!

Salted Atlantic Herring, served Estonian style
(Heeringas hapukoorega)
Serves 6-8

4 lightly salted Atlantic herring fillets
3 shallots or 1-2 medium onions
a scant cup of sour cream
2-3 hard-boiled eggs
fresh dill, finely chopped

Cut the herring filets into 1x2 cm pieces and place on an oblong shallow serving dish (it's usually fish-shaped, though ours wasn't).
Peel the onions and slice very thinly. Spread over the herring pieces.
Spoon the sour cream on top.
Peel the hard-boiled eggs, chop the egg whites and yolks separately.
Garnish the dish with lines of green dill, yellow egg yolks and white egg whites.

Keep in the fridge until serving with slices of rye bread as part of a Nordic buffet. Though you might prefer it as an accompaniment to boiled new potatoes (also a very Estonian thing to do). 



Roxy said...

I love herring, although I bought some in Ikea recently and it had an awful sweet cinnamon flavour. But this combination sounds right. And I hear that together with gerkins it can successfully cure hangover. Perfect for the time of year!

K and S said...

Happy New Year!!

Kajakas said...

meil oli samasugune heeringas laual :) inspiratsiooni sain su pildist, mid flickris juba varem rippus :)

Head uut aastat teie perele!

Ray Crowley said...

Tere Pille, I made this for Jane and it worked a treat on New Year's Eve. Could only find marinated Herring tho - not salted - seemed to work fine tho. All the best for 2009 from me, J and new baby Ronja.

Jeanne said...

I love most herring - including the sweet 'n sour spiced one that a previosu commenter mentioned ;-) Love the colours in this dish, and fresh dill is my herb du jour at the moment.

Pille said...

Roxy - in general, Estonian-Finnish-Swedish cuisines are pretty similar, things just get sweeter when you move from Estonia to Finland and then on to Sweden. I had my first taste of the sweet Swedish sill/herring recently - very different, but not bad at all..

K&S - same to you!!

Kajakas - kusjuures ma ise ei võtnud ampsugi, aga pereliikmed sõid, matsutasid ja kiitsid!

Ray - so glad to hear that. And congrants on baby Ronja - such a sweet name!

Jeanne - fresh dill has been my 'herb du jour' forever. And gosh, was it hard to find and expensive in Scotland when I first moved there!!!

Spinning Girl said...

nii tahaksin heeringat saada ...

marcella candido cianchetti said...


Courtney said...

I've been looking for fresh alewife (a type of river herring found where I live) but no luck, so I'm going to have to resort to salted. Your recipe looks good - I'll give it a go; thanks!