Shuba (also known as “herring under a fur coat”) is a classic Russian recipe that combines Russian love of root vegetables, mayonnaise and salted fish. One rarely (pretty much never) encounters herring in American recipes but on a Russian table, herring, cod liver, sardines, smoked sprats, caviar, and many other types of salted, pickled, cured and dried fish are featured often. They are served in forms of salads, appetizers or zakuski to go with the ubiquitous shots of vodka! My hubby must be turning into a part-Russian, because he recently had three helpings of Shuba – and didn’t even require vodka with it.
Shuba is probably the crowning glory of Russian fish recipes and is served in a lot of households for special occasions. As with many other recipes, each family probably has their own special touches they put on the ingredients and/or the garnish. The particular recipe (and images) featured here is that of shuba my Mom recently made for her own birthday (Happy Birthday, Mom!! I love you!!) Russians have an interesting habit of cooking or paying for one’s own birthday dinner to which friends and family are invited for a big celebration. Thus, the roughly 48 hours before Mom’s recent birthday, she was furiously and exhaustingly cooking up a storm, being left at the end of it all with barely enough energy to eat her own birthday food. Very Mom
And so, here goes…
For SHUBA that serves 8-10 people (depending on portion sizes), you will need:
2 boiled whole beets (All vegetables have to be done but not too soft or the salad will be mushy. Test them with a fork.)
2 boiled whole carrots
2 large potatoes – boiled whole with the skin, then peeled
4 hardboiled eggs
1 white or yellow onion
2 whole herrings - fileted, cleaned and de-boned (or a couple of smallish jars of ready-to-eat herring)
Fresh parsley and dill
Lemon slices for garnish
Salt and pepper
About 1/2 jar of mayonnaise (the mayo has to cover the entire salad with a thickness of at least a pinkie finger, so use more if you think you need to).
Chop or thinly slice all the vegetables and eggs and add some chopped parsley and dill. Toss gently together and add salt and pepper – make sure not to over-salt since you will be mixing in salty fish. Chop the herring filets into bite-size pieces. Using the serving dish that you intend to use at the table, start layering the veggie mix, then some herring, and repeat layers until you are left with a layer of veggies at the top. Gently pat the veggies down so they maintain the shape of the dish or bowl.
Now spread the mayo lightly in a thick layer over the vegetables, with the underside of a large spoon or a knife. If you work the mayo too hard into the salad, you will end up with mush. The mayo has to cover the salad and rest on top in a way of the proverbial “fur coat” – and that’s where this salad gets its unique name!
The mayo will likely turn a pinkish color because of the beets underneath, and that makes this presentation that much more appealing. Garnish with more fresh parsley, dill and lemon slices. Make sure to provide your guests a large deep spoon to so they can spoon up all of the delicious layers. This recipe is definitely a departure from your usual boring salad – a little sweet from the root veggies, a little savory and salty from the herring, and it makes a very satisfying and healthy meal all by itself.
Have you ever tried herring or shuba? Leave me a note!