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Sildesalat (Beetroot and Herring Salad)

The colour of this salad might put some people off because it is fairly vibrant and looks almost artificial. I remember the first time I saw it (strangely enough on a breakfast buffet in a hotel in northern Germany close to the Danish border), but the colour belies the delicate flavours. In the middle of the winter when there is so much brown around outside (or white in the case of Norway!), it's refreshing to bring some bright, natural colours to our tables.

In Germany sildesalat is often referred to a Finnish salad, but most of the Nordics has a similar version. In Norway it's frequently found on the buffet tables of celebrations such as confirmations, Easter and Christmas, but I like to go "off piste" a bit and serve my favourite dishes at any time of year. Who says we have to stick to specific times! It's not too long until Easter anyway and if you are planning a Nordic themed Easter table, it's a good chance to try a few new dishes. I hope this one makes the cut!

Beetroot is a popular ingredient in Nordic cooking as it's grown throughout the regions and in the middle of the winter we are always looking for ingredients that are at their best. Many of us have pickled our own beets and they have a few months to mature and become really flavourful. If you don't do your own pickling, then by all means use a store-bought pickled beetroot. You can also use fresh, cooked beetroot if you prefer. This will give a sweeter, milder and more earthy flavour.

Pickled herring in Swedish supermarket
Pickled herring is an ingredient you find in every Scandinavian supermarket

Pickled herring is a staple of most Scandinavian tables. It comes in a bewildering and exciting variety of flavours with everything included from tomato to aquavit. It's a delicious and healthy fish to include in our diets, but sometimes we want to elevate it a little and this dish is perfect for that.

Sildesalat is such a simple dish to make and so fresh and delicious that I make it regularly for everyday eating. I love to eat it as a topping on my knekkebrød or as a side dish to some cold meats. For those who like to stick to tradition, include it in your "koldtbord" (cold buffet) or smorgasbord for any celebration.

Sildesalat (Beetroot and Herring Salad)


150g / 5 oz pickled herring

2 medium sized peeled cooked potatoes

1 small onion, finely chopped

150g / 5 oz pickled beetroot

160ml / 5.5 fl oz sour cream

160ml / 5.5 fl oz mayonnaise

1 tablespoon of the pickling juice from the beetroot

1 finely chopped hard boiled egg for decoration


Mix together the sour cream, mayonnaise and pickle juice to make a smooth pink sauce.

Cut the herring into 1cm/half inch pieces and add to the sauce. Cut the potatoes in similar sized pieces and add them with the onion to the sauce. If you have sliced beetroot, cut into strips and then into cubes. Try to keep them about the same size at th potato and herring. Add to the salad and mix carefully together so as not to break up the potato.

Arrange the salad in a pretty bowl or in a mound on a serving plate. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Just before serving decorate with the finely chopped hardboiled egg. I like to arrange the egg around the edge of the salad to create a pleasing contrast.

A note: The salad actually tastes better when it has had a chance for the flavours to blend together. So it's an ideal choice if you want to make ahead. Leave the hard-boiled egg decoration off until you serve unless you want pink egg!

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