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.
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
- 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.