Fabulous Fish Cake Recipe

I normally make my fish cakes of the crab and Thai variety, but I had  a pack of smoked salmon left that I had done well to keep intact with the aim of transforming it. I made these up a day ahead of when I needed them, working evenings now means I have to be organised if I don’t want to resort to the family eating stew, ragu or jacket potatoes week in, week out! Once made up you can have them fried and ready within ten to fifteen minutes, so a perfect quick dinner, once you’ve put the effort in initially. And they don’t have to break the bank either.

For these fish cakes I used some frozen pollack fillets as the white fish, I really try to avoid using cod and haddock, I hope that thanks to Channel 4 and Hugh and Jamie’s recent programs more people will do the same. Plus, pollack is brilliantly cheap, mine came from Lidl and a kilo was only 4 euros, sure there will be some in UK stores for a similar price. Feel free to use smoked salmon trimmings here too, you’re chopping it into tiny pieces so why pay more than you have to?

This recipe makes ten to twelve large fish cakes, I used my crumpet rings to shape them so they were about three inches in diameter.

Sauce wise, I couldn’t decide on a Thai dipping sauce(see recipe here) or tartare sauce, so made both!

These can also be frozen once shaped, and will keep for up to a month. You can do this before or after coating in breadcrumbs. Place them on a baking sheet or similar until they have frozen then you can put them in a tub or freezer bag, use greaseproof paper to keep them separated. Defrost thoroughly before frying, and if you didn’t coat them do so at this point.

Hungry people will want two each if serving for lunch or dinner, super hungry people may want a third!

Ingredients

1 kilo of potatoes, peeled

350g white fish fillets, defrosted if frozen

100g smoked salmon

2 eggs, separated

Creme fraiche, approximately 3-4 tablespoons, or cream

25g butter

2 tablespoons cornflour

Zest and juice of one lemon

spring onion, very finely chopped, approximately 3-4

1 tablespoon chopped chives

4-6 slices of bread, whizzed up into fine breadcrumbs

Approx two tablespoons of flour for the breadcrumbing process

salt and pepper

1/2 – 1 pint of milk for poaching the fish fillets

Oil for shallow frying

Lemon wedges to serve

Optional: bay leaf and a few whole peppercorns

Method

  • In a wide bottomed pan lay the fish fillets and add enough milk to almost cover, the bay leaf and peppercorns, cover with a lid and poach on a low simmer for roughly five minutes. You want the fish to be able to flake apart  but not to have cooked it fully. Remove from the milk and leave to cool.
  • Cut the potatoes up into medium sized chunks and boil in salted water until soft enough to mash (roughly twenty minutes)
  • Drain and leave to dry off for a few minutes. You want as little additional moisture as possible. Return to the pan or a big bowl and add the butter and half the breme fraiche. Mash until it is as smooth as possible.  If you have one use a potato ricer, or a hand held blender (I have a Bamix which works really well on mash!).  If it needs a little more moisture add the remaining creme fraiche, you want a creamy but not too wet consistency. Season well with salt and pepper.  Once smooth and creamy add the cornflour and the two egg yolks and incorporate well.
  • Add the spring onions, chives, zest and juice of lemon and mix well.
  • Flake the fish fillets into the bowl or pan, making sure you get any bones as you do so. Chop the smoked salmon up into very small pieces and add. Mix it in really well.
  • Rub a little oil over a baking sheet that can fit in your fridge(or use a chopping board with a layer of cling film). If you are using a ring to shape the cakes oil it too. Place the ring on the surface and spoon the fish mixture in, smoothing down so there are no wholes. Using a spoon to push the mix down gently lift the ring, it is messy but the mix should be firm enough to hold its shape. Leave a gap of about an inch between each one and repeat until you have used up all the mix. (If you don’t have a ring you could fashion one from an empty tuna tin or similar, remove the bottom and wash well, and be careful of any sharp edges.  If not using a ring then divide and shape as best you can so they are roughly the same size, but even using a small biscuit cutter would work and make life easier.)

  • Place in the fridge for about an hour to firm up. If time is an issue you could speed it up by putting them in the freezer for about half an hour.
  • Next, to breadcrumbing them. This is really messy work, so set it up like a conveyor belt. You want a plate with the flour, followed by a shallow bowl containing the egg whites(which before you start whisk lightly with a fork), followed by a bowl of the breadcrumbs. Have them as close together as possible (and some clean soapy water nearby for getting your hands clean-you will have fingers covered by the end of it!) Get a fish slice and having floured it and your hands, slide the slice under the first cake and place it on the flour on the plate. Trying not to manhandle it too much, coat in flour then gently lift, pat any excess off and place in the egg white, being quick coat the cake and get it into the breadcrumbs. The longer the cake is in the egg whites the more chance of it breaking apart. Coat well in the breadcrumbs and return to the baking sheet. Repeat until you have coated all of them.

  • At this stage you can return them to the fridge until you need them(no longer than 24 hours, it’s fish),  freeze them, or cook them!  Get a frying pan and add enough oil to have roughly one centimetre depth. Put onto a medium heat and once the oil is hot enough to sizzle a breadcrumb add the fish cakes, my pan is big enough to take three at a time without crowding it, you need to have enough space to flip them. Keep the pan on a relatively low heat as you want to cook them through without burning the outsides, you’re looking at each side taking three to four minutes and being a lovely golden brown. The edges will start to colour which should give you an indicator.  Once both sides are cooked remove from the pan and place on some kitchen paper to soak any excess oil, then serve with a salad and dip.
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