There are two kinds of fish cakes in my mind, thanks to the way that aforementioned Chip Shop can prepare them. The first is a flaked fillet of fish with a few herbs, rolled into a ball, bound together with an egg, covered in breadcrumbs and then deep-fried. If done right, they’re quality alongside a portion of thick cut chips, but because of the way they need to be cooked, I usually prefer to leave them at the chippie. The second, the ones I like to prepare at home, has the same base; flaked fish. Only now the fish is mixed with mash potato, shaped into a patty and then shallow fried. As they already have potato inside them, they taste great as a lunch when served alongside a good salad.
Yields: Six Cakes
For the filling:
• 450g/1lb of good quality white fish fish; cod and haddock are my faves.
• 450g/1lb of floury potatoes (can’t go wrong with King Edwards)
• 2tbsp chopped parsley.
• 1/2tsp cayenne pepper – more if you’re into that sort of thing.
• Liberal amounts of salt and pepper.
• 1tbsp lemon juice.
• Butter (for the mash - optional)
For the coating:
• 100g crusty bread.
• 1 egg.
• Plain flour.
- Preheat your oven to gas mark 4. Cut the bread into thin slices and cook on a baking tray for 25 minutes. Tear the bread into chunks and pulse inside a food processor until fine breadcrumbs are formed. If you like your breadcrumbs extra crunchy put back in the oven at Gas Mark 2 for 10 minutes.
- Poach the fish (put the fish in a single layer on a pan, cover with water, boil, reduce heat to simmer, cover and leave for five minutes) then put on a plate and leave to cool.
- Peel and boil the potatoes until they’re done (roughly 15 minutes, but it depends on your cooker). Mash the potatoes with a fork, adding a small amount of butter if you want. I tend not to add milk or cream as this makes the overall patties a bit too soft and rebellious.
- Now the fish has cooked, remove any skin and bones and flake it with a fork. Fold it in with the potatoes – you don’t want to over mash the mixture – alongside parsley, cayenne, lemon juice and salt ‘n pepper. Shape the mixture into six patties and then very lightly coat in flour. This can be quite tricky, as the patties do not normally want to behave. If there is not enough moisture in the mix, add a small amount of egg. Then lightly – and carefully; remember that the patties can be rebellious - coat with a beaten egg and finally coat in a thick layer of breadcrumbs. At this point they can be chilled for about a day, but leave them in the fridge for at least an hour.
- Heat about 3tbsp of a suitable oil (something with a high smoke point and quite flavourless – sunflower or rapeseed are good choices) in a large frying pan and cook the patties in two batches of three for five minutes a side – or until golden brown (whichever comes first). Pat the excess oil off the fish cakes with a paper towel and serve.
Of course, the size of your patties can vary depending on personal preference. Make a smaller patty and they’ll fry quicker, plus you’ll get a crispier overall fish cake. Make them even bigger and you’ll get the opposite. Remember though, that a bigger patty can lead to the whole thing falling apart when you try and get the breadcrumbs on them. I think the most you can get out of these amounts is 10 tiny little ones (similar shape to the ones you get from Tesco) and the biggest you can make is 4. It’s all up to you, really.