Caviar and sour-cream spread and local fish business at its best


In my family we always eat fish roe like this, mixed with sour cream or Smetana as we call it and onion. A more prevalent way to serve fish eggs, for instance with blinis, is to have the different ingredients in separate bowls. But pre-mixing them gives the flavours a chance to mingle and coalesce and develop into so much more than their simple sum.

sour cream, dill and lump fish caviar dip

This recipe works with any type of fish eggs. I like them all; small, big, fishy, mild, orange or black. Salmon roe is easily available and affordable. It has a lovely colour and the eggs are big so it makes a good-looking dish. The finer grained and paler whitefish and vendace eggs have a more refined and delicate taste, but can be expensive. I don’t know if you can get them here in the UK. I smuggle mine frozen from Finland.

My parents get their roe and much of the fresh fish they eat from a local fisherman in their village, a retired local guy who fishes for his own amusement and to earn some extra cash I guess. He heads out early in the morning to the lake to check his nets and traps. A few hours later, when the rest of the village is just waking up he goes home with his booty. He guts and cleans the fish his loyal Karelian bear dog by his side. Sometimes he smokes some of the fish and then drives around the village selling it all from his car boot.

Mostly it’s pike, perch, whitefish, vendace and sander. Maybe trout as well. And when it is the season he also collects the roe which he neatly packs into little sachets easy to freeze. It's always a good idea to freeze any freshwater fish-products if you intend to eat them uncooked unless you are looking for a tapeworm for weight loss or other purposes. The risk apparently is very low with vendace and whitefish, but I wouldn't chance it.

I think it’s such a luxury to get wonderful fresh sustainable fish delivered to your door. And he looks after his regular customers making sure he starts his rounds with them. I think my parents are among his favourites along with the self-proclaimed “wealthy ladies” down the road. They are two unmarried elderly sisters who recently inherited some forest (Finland's green gold!) from an even more elderly unmarried relative. They then announced to the village that they now are wealthy ladies. By the looks of it they live the good life eating fresh fish whenever they fancy.

Unfortunately the fisherman has been suffering from an aortic aneurysm recently and has had to have surgery so supply has been suspended. He missed most of the vendace roe season last autumn, so mum and dad only had one bag of the stuff left when I last visited. They served it to me, their most beloved child, with homemade blinis. My youngest brother "the golden boy", a great roe lover, was alarmed by this development. He should visit his old parents more frequently now, shouldn't he.

Buckwheat blinis with vend ace roe, onion, and sour cream
Blinis with vendace roe and sour cream
So hopefully the fisherman is recovering well. Our thoughts are with him! At the moment it is too late for ice-fishing anyway, although fishermen tend to go out even when no one else would venture. There is a saying in Finland that at 10cm thick ice will carry a man, and at 5cm a fisherman. Which of course it often doesn’t with sad but predictable outcomes. We are hoping that by the time the lake is clear again our guy is back in action pushing his boat out towards the open waters, a happy glimmer in his bright blue eyes and wind tousling his receding hair.

Today I did this roe spread with lumpfish roe, which as the name already suggests is as non-delicate as it gets. I have some vendace and whitefish roe in the freezer but I am saving it for some appreciative guests, maybe my parents when they come in May. Husband is not a huge fan, but I needed some fish egg love so used a jar of the lumpfish roe I had in the fridge for just these kinds of emergencies.

Lumpfish caviar and sour cream spread on sour dough rye bread

And it was really good. The roe was quite salty and also surprisingly fishy so I used more sour cream than I would have with a milder roe. On top of a Vaasan Ruispala, my favourite Finnish rye bread which I keep in the freezer and defrost by toasting lightly, this was the perfect Good Friday breakfast. I am not ashamed to admit that after emptying the left-overs to a container for fridge, I actually licked the serving bowl clean.

Sour-cream and caviar spread recipe

150g fish roe
150ml Sour cream (or use half crème fraiche if you want it less sour)
½ red onion or one shallot
2 tbs chopped dill
Black pepper or lemon pepper
Salt (but taste first, if the roe is already salted you might not need to add)
Fresh dill for garnish

Just mix all the ingredients. It gets better if you prepare ahead and give the flavours a few hours to develop. Serve with blinis, eggs, toast or toasted rye bread. Garnish with fresh dill.

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