Friday, 17 October 2014

Sillsallad (Swedish herring salad for #ReadCookEat)

I buy zillions of books, but I also enjoy freebies. I have already mentioned Free eBooks Daily on my blog. I follow them on Twitter (@FreeEbooksDaily and check them out if not daily, then every few days to see what new books have been added). I mostly download historical fiction and cook books, and thanks to Free eBooks Daily I have discovered several authors, whom I never came across before. It's a bit like pot luck, some books are not exactly masterpieces of literature, but there are some true gems (like Moonfixer by CC Tillery) which kept me awake for a few very late nights, as I couldn't put my ipad down. I have first come across Linda K Hubalek when her book Planting Dreams was offered as a free download back in summer. I loved it, and bought two sequels. Then another book by Linda K Hubalek appeared on the site - Prairie Bloomin' (The Prairie Blossoms for an Immigrant's Daughter). Since it was book 2 in the series, I bought the first one as well.
Butter in the Well (A Scandinavian Woman's Tale of Life on the Prairie) is a historical diary set in 1868-1888) This fascinating account is a fictional diary, based on the life of Maja Kajsa Swenson Runeberg, the author's ancestor. She and her husband left Sweden to become the homesteaders in Saline County, Kansas, in 1868.

This is not an idealistic Little House-style portrayal of the pioneer life. The reality was harsh, the nature uncompromising. Life was a constant battle with the elements, as they lived first in the sodhouse, surrounded by rattlesnakes. They literally lived in the middle of nowhere, and depended on each other. No doctor in case of emergency for miles, noone to ask for help when you needed it. So much hardship, so many tragedies, when children's mortality rate was extremely high. It puts everything into perspective, when you read the diary entries about poverty, hunger and death.
You will learn a lot about the life of pioneer women in the prairie, there is an abundance of details on many aspects of the farmers' life, from house-building to harvesting and making preserves.
The book is written in a journal form, a bit repetitive at times, and in a perhaps over-simplified manner, though this might have been a literary device to imitate the diary written by a person without literary accomplishments. The story is sketchy at times,  a mere record of events of what was going on around in the neighbourhood. There were moments when I felt a bit lost, with too many names that meant something for the narrator but were totally meaningless to me as a reader. Personal photos and maps added depth to the narrative, and made it more captivating.
The ebook itself could have benefited from a better editing and proof-reading, there were too many typos which I found distracting.
The author has a great understanding of an epoch she has recreated and possesses a deep knowledge of the pioneer life in the prairie.
As someone with interest in food history, I enjoyed reading references to different foods and dishes Kajsa made. These were mostly Swedish recipes, but prepared with the ingredients found in Kansas.
Several Christmas meals were mentioned in great detail.

"This year we celebrated Christmas with all the trimmings and traditions of our family. I'll admit we used a primitive substitute for most of our Christmas dishes, but Moder makes the best ostkaka and frukt soppa no matter where she lives. Adelaide gave us some white sugar to make some kringler, the pastry Carl likes. Since we butchered a hog this fall, we had potatiskorv and a smoked ham also. I pickled catfish we caught in the river this fall and mixed it with potatoes and beets for Fader's favourite dish of sillsallad. It doesn't quite taste the same since it is supposed to be made with herring, but he was happy..." (entry for 25 December 1869)

So many new dishes for me to try: ostkaka (a custard dessert or cheesecake), kringler (pastry with icing sugar and nuts), potatiskorv (sausage made with ground meat, onions, potatoes and spices), pepparkakor (molasses and ginger cookies) and other foods mentioned in the book sounded perfect for our #ReadCookEat challenge. In the end I have chosen a pickled herring salad, Sillsallad.

herring salad

Sillsallad is a Swedish herring salad with soured cream.
I have looked up the recipes online, as I am not very familiar with the Swedish cuisine. I based my recipe on Sillsallad recipe found on I have adapted it, having reduced amounts of some ingredients and also did some minor changes with the ingredients themselves.

270g rollmops (herring with onion)
3 medium potatoes
250g baby beetroot, pickled in vinegar
3 cornichons, pickled with dill flowers
1 apple
2tbsp cyder vinegar
2tbs caster sugar
2tbsp onion and gherkin marinade from rollmops
1/2tbsp English mustard
for the sauce:
a tub of soured cream, mixed with fresh dill
hard-boiled egg for decoration

The recipe I mentioned above uses bigger quantities of herring and pickled beets. I couldn't find any dried dill, so I used fresh one instead. Of course, the homesteaders would have used a dried dill in the middle of winter.
For this recipe I bought 2 tubs of Young's rollmops.
Boil the potatoes in skins, once cooked, let them cool, before removing the skin and chopping into small pieces.
Slice the herring in two lengthwise, then in half again, and chop into small pieces. Chop the beets, apple and cornichons. Mix all the ingredients in a big mixing bowl.
Prepare the dressing by mixing caster sugar in vinegar with the marinade from rollmops, as well as mustard. Pour over the salad, mix well. Refrigerate for a couple of hours before serving.
Serve with the soured cream mixed with dill on the side.
You may garnish the salad with sliced hard-boiled eggs.

herring salad

If you enjoy pickles, you will love this salad. If you're not a fan of pickles, then it's not a recipe for you. It is basically pickles upon pickles in a soured cream sauce. Like most Russians, I looove pickles, and am very happy with the dish. On the other hand, I wouldn't offer it to my husband, as he would never eat pickled herring or beetroot (and it's his loss, how can you not like pickles?!).


I apologize I am so late with #ReadCookEat linky this month, my life has been very hectic, and I am always on the run. Believe me, I haven't lost enthusiasm, in fact I have bookmarked so many recipes already in the books I have read in summer and in September. There will be more recipes coming.

Have you read a book recently which inspired you to run to the kitchen and cook to your heart's content?

Chris from Cooking Round the World and I are inviting you to recreate a meal, inspired by books and join in our #ReadCookEat challenge.

The idea is to choose a book, either a world classic or modern fiction, or even memoirs and pick up a dish mentioned or described in that book and then recreate it in a recipe. Please say a few lines about your chosen book, and maybe even do a quote from the book.

If you decide to take part, please add the badge to your post and link up back to Chris and me, and either use a link-up tool or add the url of your post as a comment. Alternatively, email either of us with the link to your post (my email is sasha1703 at yahoo dot com).
The challenge will end on 30October 2014.
I promise to Pin all blogs posts taking part in this challenge, as well as RT and Google+


  1. Ooh this looks lovely and actually reminds me of some of the food I saw in Poland last week. I'm on holiday this week and next so I'll try to get at least one #ReadCookEat recipe post done. My life has been pretty hectic too lately - so much to do, so little time !!

    1. Yes please Cheryl! Would love to see your recipes1

  2. I love the look of this, it looks really tasty. I haven't had herrring for a long time so will have to give it a try

    1. Me neither, haven't bought it for ages, but only because I'm the only one who likes it here

  3. That herring salad looks delicious and so easy to make x

  4. The herring salad sounds amazing: I love the use of beetroot in salads. Such an undervalued vegetable! Thank you x