Pickled Herring, Beetroot and Potato Salad

On Toasted Rye Bread with Tapenade

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By Peter Gordon

Published 2005

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Now this is an almost classic combination for anyone who’s ever eaten in a Scandinavian restaurant, although the addition of tapenade leans more towards the Mediterranean.

You can save time in making this by buying pre-cooked beetroot, but if you have the time to roast them yourself it’s well worth doing. Often precooked beets will taste a little too acidic. Besides, if you can get hold of a variety of beets, such as golden, striped or orange, then it makes the salad all that more special. Likewise, you can buy very good tapenade, but making a batch is that much more rewarding.

Pickled herrings can be found in most good delis, either in tubs from the counter or in jars, and quality can vary greatly, so look around for the best. This salad can be served either warm or cold – let the weather on the day decide for you.


  • 700 g smallish beetroots (although large ones are fine – they’ll just take longer to cook), skins washed but not damaged
  • 1 tablespoon cider vinegar or red wine vinegar
  • 600 g small waxy potatoes
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 8 large slices of rye bread or pumpernickel
  • 8–12 pickled herring fillets, cut into small chunks
  • a few sprouts
  • more lemon wedges, to serve

For the Tapenade

  • 2 handfuls of stoned olives
  • 1 salted anchovy fillet or 2 anchovy fillets in oil, drained
  • ½ garlic clove
  • 1 tablespoon capers, drained
  • 2 teaspoons grated zest plus 2 tablespoons juice from 1 juicy lemon


Preheat the oven to 180°C, gas 4. Wrap the beetroots tightly in foil and place in a roasting dish. Bake for 60–90 minutes (ones the size of an egg should take about 60 minutes), until you can push a thin sharp knife through the foil and into the centre of the beets. Leave to cool until you can handle them, then remove the foil and peel off the skins. You can either rub the skin off with your fingers (wear gloves or you’ll have coloured hands) or use a small paring knife. Cut the beets into thin wedges or slices, place in a bowl and toss in the vinegar.

Boil or steam the potatoes then drain. When cool enough to handle, cut them into slices about 5 mm thick and toss with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil.

To make the tapenade, you can use either a knife or a small food processor to roughly chop the olives, anchovies, garlic and capers (if you use baby capers there’s actually no need to chop them), then mix with the lemon zest and juice, and the remaining olive oil.

To Serve

Toast the bread until quite crisp on both sides and divide between 4 plates. Spread the tapenade over the slices of toast, then layer the beets, potatoes and herring on top as you see fit. Add a few sprouts and serve a lemon wedge to the side.