I like to eat fish at least a couple of times a week and am lucky to have an excellent fishmongers nearby in Twickenham high street. I’d had fish pie in mind. It’s one of my favourite things but once in Sandys I made a sudden change of plan and decided on salmon fishcakes. I bought a lovely large piece of organic salmon and a bunch of dill. Well, dill is an obvious accompaniment to salmon, but for the very good reason they go so well together.
My Smoked Haddock Fishcakes proved a big hit and I thought it was time to try the salmon variety. I do love salmon. Fishcakes in Mrs Beeton’s day were a way of using up leftover fish and potatoes. I have to say I rarely have leftovers of either! They’re also a good frugal way of stretching out a piece of fish if you have a family to feed or are on a tight budget. I guess I might have killed the ‘frugal’ part of this by buying organic salmon but salmon is quite cheap in supermarkets now so you don’t have to buy the best. I like to treat myself to wild salmon when it’s in season but I don’t think I’d make fishcakes with that.
I pretty much followed my own recipe for the smoked haddock fishcakes but with a few differences. My piece of salmon weighed about 480g so I used a couple of large potatoes which weighed much the same so there was pretty much a 1:1 ratio of salmon to potato. You need to use ‘old’ potatoes rather than ‘new’ so they will mash well; a variety like Maris Piper. Peel and cut them into large chunks and then boil in salted water until just tender. Drain and mash with a large lump of butter.
Don’t be tempted to use a blender and make a puree as that will be too soft and smooth. I used a masher and then fork to get a rough smoothness, leaving the mixture still fairly dry so the fishcakes wouldn’t fall apart when fried later. While the potatoes are cooking get the fish in the oven. I drizzled some olive oil over the fish and seasoned with salt and pepper.
I then poured a little dry vermouth (or use white wine) in to just cover the base of the dish and covered in foil. I decided to bake it in the oven rather than poach for a better flavour but covered with fish with foil so it didn’t dry out at all and brown; I wanted it soft and moist to go into the fishcakes. I checked after 20 minutes but it wasn’t cooked through and it took 35 minutes in the end in a 200C/180 Fan oven.
Once the fish was done, I poured off the excess fat and juices and then carefully flaked the salmon with a spoon and fork. I wanted pieces of fish in my fishcakes, not a mush. I added the fish to the mashed potato.
Then I finely chopped some fresh dill and added 2 tablespoons. I grated the zest of 1/2 lemon into the mixture and also added a good squeeze of lemon juice.
Finally I added freshly grated pepper and some salt then mixed everything together very carefully.
I didn’t want to make a soft, puree-like mush but for the fish within the mixture to stay in identifiable pieces.
Have ready a shallow bowl with a beaten egg and one with some flour. Now take a large spoonful of the fish mixture and shape it – with oiled hands – to a ‘fishcake’ shape. Dip in the egg and then the flour. I made 7 fishcakes with this mixture. They were a little uneven in size! The last ones a bit bigger, so if I’d been more careful and measured out I could have made 8.
I only wanted to cook 2 for my supper so froze the others for another time. If you do this, remember to get them out in plenty of time to defrost before cooking. Meanwhile, I heated a pan with a layer of oil. When hot, I added the fishcakes and cooked over a medium heat till brown on both sides, flipping them over when the first side was nicely browned.
You want to cook them fairly gently so they have time to heat through. I served them with some flash-cooked spinach – just briefly semi-boiled/semi-steamed in a tight fitting pan – drained and then a little extra virgin olive oil and a squeeze of lemon juice drizzled over the top.
They were so good! I do love fishcakes and these were very tasty; the fish wonderfully moist; the fish pieces distinct from the potato; a nice hint of dill and lemon coming through. They’re such great things to prepare ahead of time too. You can make them earlier in the day and leave in the fridge and/or freeze some, making them ideal for informal entertaining or a family meal.