I have a love/hate relationship with seafood. When I was younger it was guaranteed to be the item I would avoid on any menu – there was something about aquatic life in pretty much any form that just didn’t do it for me.
Over time I started to realise that I actually really like most crustaceans, like prawns, crayfish and lobster, and shellfish, like mussels, scallops and clams – indeed I readily order these in restaurants now with little hesitation . I am at peace with the those little beasts that carry their homes around with them and there are few exceptions – cockles and whelks being at the top of the list and I maintain that these defy eating even in the most desperate of times.
The same has happened with fish and the journey to acceptance has come through two main channels – the first being Fish Pie (which I also have a recipe for here) and the second being Fish Cakes. As a child of the 80s my first experience of Fish Cakes was not good. I don’t know if you can recall what used to be sold as “fish”cakes – little discs of fishy potato, barely thicker than a cork coaster and covered in flaccid, radioactive-orange breadcrumbs. Part of me hopes that they’re no longer allowed to be sold as food…
Fortunately things improved drastically on that front and it wasn’t long until I discovered proper fishcakes. Big meaty chunks of fish in creamy mash, packed with flavour, in a crispy coating of panko breadcrumbs – maybe gastropubs have done us all more of a service than we give them credit for!
The supermarkets have upped their game too and there are some great examples to be found in the chiller aisle these days – I would gladly pick these up as a quick mid-week meal, served with a side salad, but as with many things on my “write it down” plan there’s as much joy to be had in the making as the eating. Here’s how I make them at home.
Homemade Fish Cakes
- 400 g Fish of your choice - I've used white fish (Cod, Haddock, etc) and oily fish (Salmon, Tuna) in the past but have discovered that a Fish Pie Mix from the supermarket can work wonders too.
- 350 g Floury Potatoes, like Maris Piper or King Edward
- 4 Spring Onions, thinly sliced
- 1 tbsp Fresh Parsley, chopped
- 100 ml Milk
- 1 large Egg
- 2 tbsp Plain Flour
- 100 g Breadcrumbs - Panko, if you can find them
Place the fish into a shallow pan (deep frying pans work well for this) and add the milk. Cover, bring to the boil, then lower the heat - simmer for a few minutes until the fish is just cooked through. Lift the fish out when it's cooked and place on a plate to cool. Keep the milk to one side for later.
Meanwhile peel the potatoes and cut them into medium sized chunks. Put them into a pan, cover with cold water then bring to the boil. Simmer until they're tender all the way through but not quite falling apart.
When they are cooked through drain off the water and mash the potatoes in the pan, adding a splash of the reserved milk and a knob of butter for a bit of extra creaminess. You can also sneak in a bit of seasoning at this stage - just don't overdo it as it's easier to add more later if it's needed. Stir in the chopped herbs and spring onions - the residual heat of the potato should soften the onion slightly but keep it crisp and fresh-tasting.
Flake the fish into good sized chunks (though if you've used a fish pie mix this might not be necessary) and mix gently into the mashed potato using your hands. Try and keep the fish chunky and don't mix it into a fine puree.
Beat the egg into a deep plate and lightly flour a board. Spread the breadcrumbs onto a second plate.
Divide the fish and potato mixture into four equal portions, then shape into your fishcakes on the floured board. Once you're happy with the shape dip gently into the beaten egg, ensuring all sides get a coating, then do the same into the breadcrumbs making sure that they adhere well to the surface. Pop into the fridge once shaped for 30 minutes just to save them falling apart when you cook them.
Heat a couple of tablespoons of oil in a pan. Drop in a couple of dry breadcrumbs into the hot oil to test it's at cooking temperature - it will sizzle when you're good to go. Lower the fishcakes gently into the pan and cook for around 5 minutes on each side until crispy and golden.
Serve with the side of your choice and a wedge of lemon - I usually like a simple salad or a steamed green vegetable (like Asparagus) with a dollop of mayonnaise, but it's really up to you.