tartare sauce-inspired fish cakes

tartare sauce inspired fish cakes
I am on a mission to empty my freezer before Christmas and unfortunately it means I am discovering frozen foods that one I didn't know I had (or frankly didn't remember - that case of out of sight, now out of mind) or unidentified things in Tupperware that I can't remember freezing and once defrosted have no ideal why I had kept them in the first place, apart from some ingrained sense of thrift. I suspect that this latter scenario is something to do with a combination of the current economic climate and being the child of people who themselves were brought up during an era of austerity and rationing.

So in running down the freezer, I discovered a whole section of fish. Something from the back, Madam? There are several slabs of fish that I have no memory of putting there and for the life of me can't remember why . . . why didn’t I just cook them at the time?

Well, too late to worry about that now. Can I present you with exhibit A from the frozen nether regions of my Beko - the first to be defrosted was a large slab of white fish, that frankly hadn’t enjoyed it's time in icy conditions. It was looking a bit ragged - a think this is what is known as "freezer burn". But loathe to throw anything away and feeling virtuously frugal I decided to turn it (probably haddock) into fish cakes.

Fish cakes are one of the most comforting of dishes, something that can be turned into something richly unctuous and perfect for a cold autumn day, or gussied up with chilli and lime with hints of the Far East and a summer feast.

So for my comforting autumn meal I decided to combine the fish with some of my favourite ingredients, the things that go into a tartare sauce - capers, gherkins and lemon zest.
I'm not going to tell you how to mash potatoes, because in theory this is a great recipe for using leftover mash. All I would say is that many recipes for mash will use milk and I would suggest that if you are going to use leftover mash, set some aside before adding the milk. The reason for this is that otherwise your mixture will be too limp! (If you don't have any mash ready-made then bake a few potatoes beforehand and scoop out their insides).

Skill level: Easy
Serves 3

250g white fish (haddock, pollack or sole - try to avoid fish that are on the endangered list such as cod or halibut)
poaching liquid:
1 x garlic clove, smashed
1 x small onion, quartered
1 x celery stick, roughly chopped
2 x bay leaves
6 x black peppercorns

about 250g buttery mashed potato (floury baking potatoes such as King Edwards or Desiree are best)
olive oil and butter
2 x onions, finely chopped
a sprig of fresh thyme
2 x bay leaves
2-3 tbsp fresh parsley, finely chopped
1 tbsp finely chopped gherkins (about 3 or 4 small gherkins/cornichons)
1 tbsp finely chopped capers
zest of 1 lemon, finely chopped
1 x egg yolk (try to keep the egg white for something else . . . they do freeze well!)
salt and freshly ground black pepper

plain flour
1 x egg, beaten
dried bread crumbs

  1. Poach the fish in the milk with the poaching ingredients for about 10 minutes, and then set aside to cool. When cool, drain. (You can keep the poaching liquid for something else, perhaps making a fishy sauce).
  2. Add a trickle of olive oil and a small knob of butter to a frying pan over a medium heat.
  3. Once this has melted add the onions salt, pepper, thyme and bay leaves and cover with a lid. Cook over a low heat for about 10 minutes - the onion should be soft, but not brown.
  4. Pick the bay leaves out of the mixture.
  5. Mix the onion mixture with the mashed potato and leave to cool.
  6. Add the parsley, gherkins, capers, flaked fish and egg yolk and stir well to combine. Season with a little more salt and pepper.
  7. Create the fishcakes by moulding balls of the mixture (about 70g) and flattening them out. At this stage I would then put them in the fridge to firm up for about 30 minutes.
  8. Dip each fishcake in flour, beaten egg and bread crumbs.
  9. You can either deep fry Deep fry in vegetable oil (about 180C) for about 3 to 4 minutes until golden brown. However, I like to shallow fry mine for about 1 to 2 minutes on each side and then move to the oven (at about 160C) for another 10 to 15 minutes - as they fluff up a bit in the oven.
  10. Serve with a tartare sauce and peas, or with a spicy tomato sauce.

  • A tartare sauce would be my favourite accompaniment. A cheat's version is to take a good store-bought mayonnaise (Hellmanns or Sainsburys French Mayonnaise are good) and add a little lemon juice, chopped gherkins and capers, salt and pepper and perhaps a little chopped red pepper.
  • A tart, sorrel sauce makes a good accompaniment when in season.
  • For a more peppery sauce make one using watercress.


Pear Tree Log said...

I thought I knew what I was going to cook tonight, but now all I fancy is fish cakes. As I haven't got the ingredients to hand I suppose I'll have to be patient and make some tomorrow instead. Seriously drooling!

o cozinheiro este algarve said...

fishcakes yum!I was going to make risotto tonight- sigh. Like you I found a hake fillet at the bottom of the bottom drawer of my bottomless Bosch last week and made a delicious spontaneous fish pie along with a small bag of prawns that was nestling next to it.What are we like? By the way how did you get on with the apple cake?

o cozinheiro este algarve said...

Meant to say how nice to have you back blogging again

Dom at Belleau Kitchen said...

random fish from the freezer cakes... my favourite cake!... lovely recipe x

Brownieville Girl said...

Oh you have reminded me that I need to tackle the freezer very soon!!!

What a delicious way to use up those long forgotten pieces of fish - I love all those flavours.