Growing up in Netherlands I’ve had my fair share of soused herring, pickled herring smoked kipper and what we call in Dutch ‘spekbokking’ – a salty cold smoked herring.
I hadn’t had spekbokking for a long time (even when I was in the Netherlands), so a few months ago when I saw a similar type of cold smoked fish at the deli section in a supermarket here in Greece, I couldn’t resist. When I cut open the herring’s belly at home, I discovered to my surprise that its bloated belly was full of roe! Glistening, smoky, salty roe. Delicious!
When in Greece, what is the best thing you can make with fish roe? That’s right! taramosalata… or in this case regosalata / ρεγγοσαλάτα (‘ρεγγα’ or ‘regga’ simply meaning herring) as ‘tarama’ can apparently only be from cod or carp roe. My recipe here is not so different from the one for my taramosalata that I’ve already got on this site; the amount of roe, onion and olive oil are basically the same, but I use a coarse whole wheat bread instead of white bread (and thus a little less bread) and some fresh dill and an extra squeeze of lemon juice instead of garlic, which I think complements the smoky flavor of the herring perfectly. Also, in the case of this dip, you can substitute part of the roe with some of the smoked flesh in case there isn’t enough of it.
Speaking of which: I’ve heard and read from some sources that this type of smoked herring is always full of roe, while others claim it’s a relatively rare thing to find (and sometimes the fish are full of something else… don’t ask). I don’t know which is true, but so far, every smoked herring I’ve bought since had that delicious roe inside. Should you be less lucky, however, this salad is perfectly delicious made with the soft fatty and salty meat of smoked herring alone.
Tip: this salty, fishy dip is great served as a meze with some ouzo, tsipouro, or raki!
Note: I rather like the slightly coarser mouthfeel this dip has compared to taramosalata made with white bread or potato. However, you can, of course, always substitute the coarse whole wheat in this recipe for a fluffier (but stale!) white bread, or a boiled potato.
Reggosalata / Ρεγγοσαλάτα (Greek Smoked Herring Roe Dip)
- 150g stale crust-less whole wheat bread (preferably a coarser type of bread or even sourdough)
- 150g salted smoked herring roe (from 1 large or 2 medium sized smoked herrings), or a combination of herring roe and smoked herring meat to get the same amount
- 85ml lemon juice
- 200ml extra-virgin olive oil
- ½ small red onion
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill, or more to taste
- (optional) few capers or sprigs of dill to decorate
- Slices of bread, to serve
- Cut the crusts off your bread (if you haven't already) and shred the softer inside into small pieces. Add to a bowl together with a little water to let the bread soak.
- To prepare the smoked herring: If you’ve got a whole smoked herring (spekbokking), gently cut open its belly, making sure not to damage the roe sacs too much. Gently remove roe from the cavity onto a plate. Cut off the head and fillet the herring by cutting as close to the spine as possible on both sides. I usually cut off the ‘belly flaps/skin’ if it’s too firm and dry as well. Remove the skin, fins and any obvious bones you feel when running your finger over the meat.
- Weigh the roe sacs and if necessary add as much fish flesh as needed to make up a total of 150 grams. Add roe to a food processor together with the lemon juice and the oil. Process until the color of the mixture turns slightly lighter and creamy and the ingredients are relatively well combined.
- Add pieces of filleted fish (if using), the red onion and fresh dill. Process until fish and onion are finely chopped.
- Drain the bread and gently squeeze out excess water. Add the bread to the food processor with the other ingredients (perhaps in batches if it makes it easier to combine everything) and process until the salad is relatively smooth, creamy, and light of color. If the mixture seems too thick, add a little water and process until you’ve got the consistency you like.
- Transfer the dip to a bowl, or air-tight container and leave in the refrigerator (if you can manage) for about an hour (or even a day) to let all the flavors combine well before serving.