I created this dish one week for my Secret Larder supper club - we had a magician show up to entertain folk, as you do, and I came up with an arguably twee menu of daft magic-related puns. Rabbit in a hat was a great hit, as was this - herring poached in beetroot juice - ta-da! - a red herring. You could use mackerel, or indeed sea bass or similar, if herring is too hard to come by.

James Ramsden

Red Herring with Lovage and Parsley Sauce

Serves 6 
Preparation: You will need to pickle the beetroot a day or two ahead, ideally.
Cooking Time: 30 minutes


  • 1lb 2oz beetroot
  • 300ml/10fl oz/1¼ cups white wine vinegar
  • 250g/9oz/1¼ cups caster (superfine) sugar
  • 2 shallots, peeled and finely sliced
  • a bunch of dill, finely chopped – reserve a few fronds to garnish
  • 6 herring, cleaned, boned and butterflied – the fishmonger can do this

For the lovage and parsley sauce

  • 25g/1oz lovage, leaves only
  • 25g/1oz parsley, leaves only
  • 1 tbsp capers
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled and crushed to a paste
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 100ml/3½fl oz/7 tbsp olive oil
  • salt and pepper


  1. Put the beetroot in a pan of salted water and bring to a boil. Simmer for about 40 minutes, or until easily pierced with a skewer. Drain and leave to cool. When cool, rub with your thumb to remove the skins. Thinly slice the beetroot.
  2. Stir the vinegar and sugar in a saucepan over a low heat until the sugar has dissolved, then add the shallots and bring to a boil. Simmer for 3 minutes, then pour over the beetroot. Add the dill, cover and leave until cool.
  3. To make the sauce, bring a pan of salted water to a boil. Fill a bowl with iced water. Introduce the lovage and parsley to the hot water for no more than 10 seconds, then plunge them straight into the iced water. Leave for a minute or so, until cold, then
    remove and press out any excess water.
  4. Blend or finely chop with the capers, garlic and lemon juice, then slowly stir or blend in the olive oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste and set aside.
  5. Drain the beetroot, tipping the pickling juice into a wide saucepan or sauté pan. Bring this to a boil and gently slide in the herring. Reduce the heat and poach for 4–5 minutes.
  6. Serve the red herring with the pickled beetroot and the lovage and parsley sauce.

Pairing suggestion: Martell Cordon Bleu

Red Herring with Lovage and Parsley Sauce