I love fishcakes and often choose them from a menu when I’m out, but I rarely make them. I’m not sure why but I’ve been thinking about making some again for a while and today I got round to it at last! My first stop was to the local fishmongers this morning. Sandys is a family-run business that opened in 1977. Since then it’s established a reputation for excellence and people travel from far around to buy fish from their shop in Twickenham high street. They’ve branched out quite a bit since I first moved to the area and now sell meat, game and turkey at Christmas; also cheese, pickles and chutneys. But the main thing they sell is still fish.
I like salmon fishcakes but as I’d cooked salmon for supper only a couple of nights ago I thought I’d do haddock fishcakes instead. I asked at first for ‘haddock’ but then I noticed the sustainable, naturally smoked and non-dyed version and made a quick change of order. The fillet I bought weighed about 300g.
I prepared the fishcakes in the afternoon, ahead of the time I wanted to cook and eat them. The amount I had made 4 fishcakes so I ended up eating two and freezing two for another meal. If you do this, you need to make sure you thoroughly defrost them before cooking.
The first thing I did was to get the fish cooking. I put the smoked haddock fillet in an ovenproof dish, dotted a few bits of butter on top and poured in enough milk to cover the bottom of the dish but not the fish. I didn’t salt the fish as smoked fish is already quite salty. I put the fish in a 180 Fan/200 C oven for about 15 minutes till tender – check by using a fork or spoon to see if it flakes away easily from the skin.
Meanwhile I prepared the potatoes. I picked out 2 medium-sized Maris Piper potatoes that looked the right amount, but for the sake of the blog, I weighed them and found they weighed almost exactly the same as the fish. I peeled them and cut into equal sized pieces. You need ‘old’ potatoes that are suitable for mashing. I didn’t want them to be too watery or go mushy so I half-boiled/half-steamed them. This is a technique I use a lot for vegetables. I put the vegetables in the bottom of a heavy Le Creuset cast iron saucepan and add just a little water; enough to cover the bottom of the pan but not cover the vegetables. Then I bring to the boil and simmer with the heavy lid on and they half-steam. Remember to check the water doesn’t boil away though. As soon as the potatoes were tender, I tipped away the remaining water, added a good piece of butter and then mashed them till as smooth as I could get them. But don’t be tempted to use a blender as that would make them too pureed and sticky and they wouldn’t be the right consistency for the fishcakes.
Put the mashed potato in a bowl. With a fork and spoon, flake the fish and add to the potato. You want nice chunks of fish so don’t break it up too much. Then add a large handful of chopped fresh parsley, a few drops of Tabasco sauce for a nice hint of heat, and a generous amount of freshly ground black pepper. Again – don’t salt. I didn’t salt my fishcakes at any time and they didn’t need it because I used smoked haddock. However, you could use other fish if you prefer, e.g. salmon or unsmoked haddock, and then you would probably need to add some salt.
Now carefully and quite gently mix everything together well with a fork. You want to mash it a little so it comes together, but you don’t want to make a mushy paste: the flakes of fish need to be intact for a better fishcake. I then divided the mixture into four equal pieces.
Have ready a bowl with a beaten egg in it and a plate with some plain flour. Take one portion of the fishcake mixture and with oiled hands shape into a fishcake. Put in the egg and coat well then transfer to the flour. Coat with flour and shake off excess and then put on a clean plate. At this point I left them for a while till I was ready to cook and eat them. If you make them very far in advance, you’ll need to put them in the fridge till needed.
When nearly ready to eat I made a green salad. If I’m going to put salad on the side of a plate them I like to make it in a bowl so I can toss it in dressing before transferring to the plate.
I had a nice mixed rocket, watercress and spinach salad into which I added chopped fennel. Now heat a good amount of light olive or other cooking oil in the bottom of a frying pan. Add the fishcakes.
Remember – they’re ‘cooked’ because you’ve made them with fully cooked fish and potatoes. All you’re trying to do is heat them through and make them nice and brown and slightly crispy on the outside. So they don’t take long. Mine took about 4 minutes each side. When ready, serve immediately with the green salad and some lemon to squeeze over the fishcakes.
They were wonderful – she says with total lack of modesty! What I really liked about them was that they had nice chunky flakes of fish within the smooth potato – you could see and taste the fish! Also, smoked haddock has quite a strong flavour – even this naturally smoked and undyed kind – but the potato nicely balances it so they end up just deliciously full of flavour but not too intense. They’d be great to make to serve to friends or family because you can do all the preparation in advance and the final cooking takes only about 10 minutes. Or, like me, you can put the other ones in the freezer to pull out for another day.