Herring fillets ‘tartare’

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As much I love Asian and Mod Oz food, I cannot escape my Polish roots and often crave foods and dishes popular in my former homeland.

Polish food is simple, hearty and full of classic flavours as it comes from centuries of peasant tradition, and sourced mostly from the land and the sea. And, like so many other cuisines around Europe, it has many dishes whose origin can be traced back to Western France as much as it can to Scandinavia. Botwinka (young whole beetroot soup), dill pickle soup, blueberry dumplings and other Polish dishes feature often on our Australian-Polish menu.

This particular dish, called simply herring in oil in Polish, is a combination of finely diced salty herring, raw onion, pepper and oil – very similar ingredients as in a beef steak tartare, hence my choice of the English name here. I have to say that this herring recipe is an acquired taste if you’re not used to herring, but f you like fish and salty flavours, you should give it a go.

In Poland, every self-respecting host will serve a version of this as a cold starter. Quite often, and I like to do this as well, the dish is flavoured with tomato sauce or a capsicum relish, or a mixture of sour cream and cheese is added to bulk up and flavour the dish.

Serves 2-4 as a starter

Herring fillets ‘tartare’

Matjes herring fillets are generally sold in oil, and very salty. They require soaking, in milk or water, for at leat 2 hours before using in this recipe. Since herring is considered parve (neutral) soaking it in milk for use in Jewish recipes. Change soaking liquid once halfway through.

{Printable recipe}

For the herring ‘tartare’:

  • 200g packet Matjes herring fillets in oil
  • 1 small onion, diced finely
  • 1 tsp finely ground black pepper
  • 4 tbsp light olive or vegetable oil

To serve:

  • slices of sourdough

To soak the herrings: remove from packet and place in a large bowl. Add enough cold water or milk to cover and leave at room temperature to soak for about 2 hours. Change water halfway through.

To make herring ‘tartare’: dice herring fillets into 1cm pieces. Add finely diced onion, black pepper and oil. Mix well to combine and chill for another 15 minutes before serving.

To serve: spoon onto slices of fresh sourdough and enjoy.

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12 Responses to Herring fillets ‘tartare’

  1. Eha says:

    How absolutely delightful to be able to think of matjes herring in the middle of the working day! Well, being Estonian-born, this has been mother’s milk for all my life – and one of Mom’s older sisters having married a Polish army general, the only somewhat differing wellknown recipes are bringing a smile on my also Asian and fusion Oz foodie face 🙂 ! Thanks, and I actually have a pouch of guess what in the fridge!

  2. You know, this is just one of those dishes I’ve never tried, despite having Polish friends. I’m going to have to give this one a go.. on a day when I invite them over:)

  3. Anne S says:

    This is fabulous, such a simple recipe but a great way to use the fillets. Thank you for sharing

  4. Mel says:

    Your photos of the salad are beautiful, even though it’s a very humble dish, your photography makes it look very inviting.

  5. These photos are magic. Even if you didn’t like herring, you’d eat them because of these photos. 🙂

  6. Sissi says:

    It’s funny because at first I thought you used actually raw herring (I think it has many parasites) 😉 I also love herrings in oil, alone with just onions or in salads.

    • I’m sorry I got you confused, with those images in mind I feel very terrible.

      • Sissi says:

        This is me who is sorry! It was a joke! (You know whenever I buy whole mackerels, they always have parasites, but the Japanese still adore mackerel sushi…. I wouldn’t be surprised to see herring sushi either! As a regular black pudding and snail eater I’m not easily disgusted by food 😉 )

        • I’m with you on trying food, although I had trouble bringing myself to eat Balut in the Philippines yesterday. I chickened out, excuse the pun. Speaking of black pudding… I’m serving some next week. 🙂

  7. Nami | Just One Cookbook says:

    Very simple dish – no matter how much you enjoy food, the food you crave most is something you grow up with. I learned about herring dishes from Sissi in her blogs a couple of times and I enjoyed learning more about it. 🙂



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