A traditional Greek potato salad with smoked herring from Messinia
Σαλάτα με πατάτες και καπνιστή ρέγγα. Our parents are from Messinia, a region found in the south western part of the Peloponnese. The capital is Kalamata and it is a marvelous part of the country. Soaring mountain ranges, fertile flatlands and forests, picturesque villages, citadels, vineyards and orchards are some of what make Messenia such a rich and glorious land.
Visitors have learned that there is much that this area has to offer and tourism plays an increasingly large role in the economy. Still, this fertile area is an agricultural wonderland and crops remain the most important industry for the region. Some of the main products are olive oil, Kalamata olives, oranges, sultana raisins and figs.
Messinia also boasts a long history of smoking food in order to preserve it. One of the quintessential recipes from this region is called pasto, salted pork which is smoked using sage and then stored in olive oil. Absolutely incredible! But smoking food was not reserved for meats; smoked fish was a popular way to preserve fish and to have it available throughout the year, particularly important if you did not live by the water in a port city. Our parents each grew up in mountainous villages and for their families smoking, salting and curing fish became an important component of their diet.
These days we don’t smoke our own fish (although one of our husbands probably would if we asked him to!) but we’re fortunate to have easy access to smoked fish in our local Greek market. In this recipe we used smoked herring to prepare a potato salad that our parents each grew up on, and which they often prepared when we were children. When we were young girls we weren’t very fond of this potato salad with smoked herring, the flavour of the fish being too overpowering (and the thought of it frankly too off-putting) but now we love it! We hope that you will too!
Can I use a fish other than herring?
You can substitute the smoked herring for smoked trout or even smoked salmon although the latter will be quite different from the original recipe. If you can find herring, try to use that. Aside from all the health benefits (which you can read about here), smoked herring is traditional in this recipe.
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Potato salad with smoked herring
- 3 pounds potatoes
- 1 tsp salt to add to the water when boiling the potatoes
- 5 ounces cherry tomatoes we used mini San Marzano tomatoes
- 2 tbsp finely chopped yellow onion or red onion
- 1 green onion, finely chopped
- 1 celery stalk, finely chopped
- 1/4 cup finely chopped dill
- 1/4 cup finely chopped flat leaf parsley
- 75 grams smoked herring, sliced into bite-size pieces
For the dressing
- 1/3 cup (80 mL) olive oil
- 1 tsp grated lemon zest
- 4 tbsp (60 mL) freshly squeezed lemon
- 1 tsp dry oregano
- 1/2 tsp black pepper, or to taste
- 1/2 tsp salt, or to taste
For the salad
- Bring a large pot of water and 1 tsp of salt to a boil. While you are waiting for the water to boil wash your potatoes well. Do not peel them.
- Add your potatoes to the boiling water and reduce heat to medium. Boil, uncovered, for about 20 - 30 minutes until the potatoes are fork tender. The exact cooking time will depend on the size of your potatoes.
- When your potatoes are cooked, drain them and place them back in the pot. Fill the pot with cold water and allow your potatoes to cool.
- Once your potatoes are cool enough to handle use a sharp knife to peel them. Chop them into bite size chunks and place them in a large bowl.
- Add the rest of the salad ingredients to the bowl with the potatoes. You may decide to cut your tomatoes in half if they are on the larger size. Set aside.
For the dressing
- In a jar with a lid or a bowl combine all of the dressing ingredients. Shake or mix until well combined. Pour the dressing over the salad.
- Using a large spoon mix your salad until all of the ingredients and dressing are well combined. Mix carefully as you don't want to break up your potatoes too much.
- Although you can enjoy your salad immediately, it is best if you allow it to sit in the refrigerator for approximately 2 hours so that the flavours can develop.
- Enjoy either cold or at room temperature.