Vegan herring: Fried aubergine in mustard sauce

Vegan "herring" with summer potatoes make for a really Nordic plate.

We are about to go to Finland for a long visit this summer and I'm a little nervous what we'll eat once surrounded by family who aren't used to daily vegan food. I've been prepping some easy and familiar recipes that I can introduce to the table this summer.

In Finland summer is so short and so anticipated. When weather permits Finns want to eat their meals outdoors: on terraces, in gardens or at summer houses and the food should come off the grill if possible. The real hero of summer food is the "new potato": a summer crops of particularly sweet, starchy and thin-skinned potatoes. The special qualities are apparently a result of all the daylight and short Nordic nights during summer.

New potatoes are typically boiled in salted water with a few sprigs of dill and served with a knob of butter, paired with other summer foods like barbecue and fish dishes. A traditional Nordic side dish to potatoes is pickled herring in brine or in a sauce.

I've spotted many veganised "herring" recipes on Swedish websites that substitute herring with aubergine or mushrooms for that typically chewy mouthfeel. This recipe follows one from and is not too fussy. The result mimics the classic version well because of the strong mustard sauce.

Veggie "herring" in mustard sauce

1 large aubergine OR 300g portobello mushrooms
100 ml sweet mustard (6-7 table spoons)
1 tsp salt
2-3 tbsp sugar (or to taste – depends on how sweet the mustard is)
1 tbsp vinegar (or to taste – depends on how vinegary the mustard is)
100 ml sunflower oil or rape seed oil
100 ml oat or soy cream
1 small red onion, finely chopped
ca 100 ml dill, finely chopped

Slice the aubergine in ca. 1 cm thick slices, then cut each slice in 6 pieces. Fry the aubergine in a little bit of oil for a few minutes – if they get too soft they loose the herring-like texture.

If you use mushrooms, cut them into ca. 3x3 cm squares. Heat up a few tablespoons of oil in a pot or a pan and fry the mushrooms at medium heat – cover them with a lid and let them sit until the liquids have evaporated before you stir. Let them cool off.

Mix mustard, salt, sugar and vinegar in a bowl that's big enough to also fit the aubergine / mushrooms. Whisk in the oil. Mix in the cream and add onion, dill. Add the aubergine / mushrooms. Let the dish marinate for at least a few hours, preferably over night. Serve cold.

P.S. The butter with new potatoes is easily replaced with good olive oil, salt and a squirt of lemon juice on your spuds or in a little dipping bowl next to your plate. For some protein on your plate: vegan sausages match the mustard really well!


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