Friday Fishcakes

 Salmon and potato fishcake, shown with a slice of lime and a frond of dill.

OK so I last made these on a Tuesday, but who’s counting? In any case there were no complaints from the Shopkeeper, either that night or when they appeared again the next day for lunch. These are comfort food of the first order – crispy on the outside, moist and flavourful within – but with enough by way of added refinement that they shouldn’t be embarrassed to show their faces at an informal supper party with friends. Having gone several days without peas and suffering severe withdrawal symptoms I served these with pea and pea-shoot salad [see page 5 of the summer edition of My St Margarets Magazine for recipe and details of my all-consuming pea addiction] and some honeyed pickled baby beetroot, but for something fancier why not try griddled asparagus and a lemony hollandaise? Or for a light lunch just mix some chopped watercress with crème fraiche and serve on the side. These quantities make 4 very large [my favourite, 1 each is plenty!], 6 large or 8 small to medium fishcakes.

  • 270g salmon, poached [see separate post]
  • 800g mashable potatoes
  • 1 heaped tbsp salted capers, rinsed well
  • 60g cornichons / gherkins, finely chopped
  • A few sprigs of dill, finely chopped
  • 50-100g white crab meat [I was using leftovers and would have added more if to hand]
  • 2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 60g butter
  • Nutmeg
  • Flour for dusting
  • 2 beaten eggs
  • Breadcrumbs [I used walnut bread*, but plain white or perhaps panko will work fine]
  • Groundnut or vegetable oil for shallow frying

Boil the potatoes until cooked and then mash or pass through a ricer into a large bowl. Using a fork whisk in the butter and Dijon mustard, and a grating of nutmeg, until you have a smooth potato paste. Leave to cool.

Flake the poached salmon and add this to the potatoes along with the capers, cornichons, dill, and crab. Using a rubber spatula [or similar] fold all together, gently but firmly. You want to achieve a homogenous mass without breaking the salmon flakes beyond recognition. This is the time to check the seasoning, adding salt and pepper as necessary. Divide this into your desired number of cakes and with your hands make balls of the mix, then flatten into patties. Pop these into the fridge to chill and firm up for an hour or so, or prepare to this stage even up to a day in advance.

Now for the messy part… Dip each cake first in flour, dusting off the excess, then into the egg, and finally the breadcrumbs. For best results repeat the egg and breadcrumb dips once more. Now you can return them to the fridge for another half an hour or so, or proceed straight to the pan.

Heat the oil in a frying pan until the surface begins to ripple, and gently lay in the cakes. Allow the cakes a quick sizzle in the hot oil and then turn down the heat and fry slowly. Give them a few minutes and then, using a palette knife or fish slice, take a peek at the underside. Deep golden brown is what we’re after – if that’s what you have gently flip over and do the same to the other side, if not continue to cook, checking every minute or so. The sides of the discs may not brown as much as the faces depending on the size and thickness of your cakes, and the depth of your oil. No matter, all will be well once the flat surfaces are done.

* Yes, it does help to run a shop selling bread if you want to have a good variety of frozen breadcrumbs to play with, but we can all take the remains of a loaf that’s a couple of days old, blitz it in the food processor and tip the resulting crumbs into a freezer bag, especially if you’ve shelled out for an interesting bread – it will make just as interesting breadcrumbs! In most cases, including this one, you can use breadcrumbs straight from the freezer.

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