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Apr 1, 2013
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Smoked Herring with Buttermilk & Turnip Soup, Radish, Poppy Seed Oil and Hemp Seeds

My blog’s winter sleep turned out to be a little bit longer than expected. The reason for the silence is that first I moved partially to Frankfurt for 3 months and then after more than 10 years in Erlangen I finally moved to Germany’s most colourful and versatile gastronomic city: Berlin. Looking for a new apartment, packing and moving all my stuff, saying goodbye to friends and equipping my new home with furniture devoured several weekends. In the end, everything went very well. From the cooking perspective, the most important change is that I replaced my tiny 3m² kitchen with a huge 12m² one. So finally I have the space for all my equipment right in the kitchen and don’t need to hide cooking utensils under my sofa or bed. Though, the kitchen is still not ready completely since I’m working on a kitchen island, but at least it is operational. As an inauguration I prepared a fresh and simple dish – in the hope that spring might come in a few days.

Smoked Herring with Buttermilk and Turnip Cream Soup, Radish, Poppy Seed Oil and Hemp Seeds

While I was looking for a new flat in Berlin, one of my many small criteria was to have a nice market nearby offering local products and specialities. During my visits at the beginning of this year, I already fell in love with the market at the Boxhagener Platz. In the end, the apartment I moved in happens to be just a few minutes away from this market. Next to the many greengrocers, bakeries, flower stands, fishmongers and butchers there are also special stalls dedicated only or mostly for e.g. eggs, apples or potatoes. What really caught my attention was the fish smoker. This guy brings his smoker filled with herrings, mackerels, eels, plaices, salmon, trout and other delicious fish to the market and literally smokes the fish right in the middle of the people. You can’t get any more fresh than this. The smoked herring in the recipe below comes from this fish smoker stand. Here in the northern part of Germany the herring is actually called “Bückling” if it was smoked hot. It sometimes contains the smoked roe, too.

For this recipe I used almost only locally sourced spring ingredients. Because the smoked herring tends to be slightly fatty, I created a turnip soup gently soured with buttermilk. I served it at room temperature so the buttermilk doesn’t flocculate. As a counterpart to the silky soup and the soft herring I added a few small wedges of crisp radish and young turnip stems. Since both the radish and the turnip stems resembled a slight nutty tone to me, I enhanced this aroma further with a few drops of poppy seed oil and some teaspoons of hemp seeds. The dish is really refreshing and light, so it might be served in early summer as well.

Smoked Herring with Buttermilk and Turnip Cream Soup, Radish, Poppy Seed Oil and Hemp Seeds

Smoked Herring with Buttermilk & Turnip Soup, Radish, Poppy Seed Oil and Hemp Seeds

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes

Yield: 4 portions

Smoked Herring with Buttermilk & Turnip Soup, Radish, Poppy Seed Oil and Hemp Seeds


  • 1 hot smoked herring
  • 3-4 large turnips with their greens
  • 1.5 tsp butter
  • 1 shallot
  • 1 small fresh garlic clove
  • 25 ml dry vermouth (Noilly Prat)
  • 150 ml vegetable stock
  • 200 ml buttermilk
  • 1/5 tsp grated horseradish
  • few drops vinegar
  • 1 bunch small red radishes
  • 3 tsp poppy seed oil
  • 30 g hemp seeds
  • salt


For the turnip soup
Using a knife cut off the greens right at the top of the turnips. Discard the outer leaves. Gently pick the young tender inner leaves one by one. Wash thoroughly, dry and reserve.
Wash the turnip balls, peel and grate. Transfer to a bowl, sprinkle with a pinch of salt and leave for 15 minutes. Meanwhile melt 1.5 tsp butter in a pan and sauté the finely minced shallot and garlic. Add the vermouth and cook off the alcohol. Add the grated turnip, the vegetable broth and - if necessary - enough water to just barely cover everything. Cover the pan with a lid and cook the turnips over low heat until completely soft and tender. Puree in a blender and chill to room temperature.
Add the buttermilk to the soup and season with salt, a pinch of grated horseradish and depending on the sourness of the buttermilk a few drops of vinegar. The resulting soup should have a mild sour taste to balance the smoked fish. If the soup is too thick, add some buttermilk or vegetable stock.
For the smoked herring
Carefully skin the smoked herrring and remove the flesh from the fishbones. Pull or cut into 4-5cm long pieces.
For the garnish
Discard the greens of the radish and wash. Cut into 4 wedges.
To serve
Arrange 3 pieces of smoked herring on each plate. Add 8-10 wedges of radish and a few delicate turnip stems.
Lightly foam the room temperature soup using a hand blender. At the table, pour the soup around the smoked herring, sprinkle with 1-2 tsp poppy seed oil and add 3 tsp of hemp seeds.
If you like herring roe, you can also serve the smoked roe with the soup, although in this case the soup should be slightly more sour. Instead of buttermilk you can also use fermented sour turnip and its broth.

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