Fishcakes

When I was younger, and to an extent still today, I would always choose fishcakes over battered fish. My main issue with deep fried fish was that the skin was incredibly slimy – which is gross. Why would I choose to have slimy fish when I could have delicious fishcakes? The main problem with commercial fish cakes is that they are basically all potato. It’s cheap to add to the mix and when it’s combined with flavour enhancers it is very difficult to know how much actual fish there is in the cake. When you make them for yourself, you know – in this case the fishcakes are about 30% fish and 70% potato, egg, onion and bread.

The history of fishcakes dates back 4000 years. A Chinese folk tale tells of a fisherman who fed his homemade fishcakes to Emperor Shun’s wives which cheered them up and returned their waning appetites to normal. According to the story, Shun was so pleased by this that he requested the fisherman teach others how to make the fishcakes and thus the fishcake became a popular dish in China. In both China and Japan surimi (a paste made from fish or meat) was used to make fishcakes and fish balls. It was often made using the fish that couldn’t be sold either whole or as fillets and so would have gone to waste otherwise.

Fishcakes are an excellent way of using up left over mashed potato. You might even go as far as to make a double portion of mash for your shepherd’s pie and use the excess the next day for a fishcake dinner. If you choose to use tinned fish (I would avoid tuna but tinned salmon is absolutely fine) this dish becomes ultra-fast to make. Just drain the fish, mix it into the potato with onion, seasoning and an egg and you are good to go. There is no rule saying you have to spend time coating the fishcakes in breadcrumbs – it’s mainly convention – but it is the best way to get a crunchy exterior.

The recipe below is a very basic one. Like with all food, there are hundreds of recipes giving tips and tricks for how to make the same dish but sometimes it is nice to have a good base case from which you can work upwards. As you will notice, I do not season the mashed potato. Some people will add milk and butter – if you are using left over mash from a previous meal, this is likely to be in there – and that is fine. The fishcakes will be a little bit softer but they will still work just as well. I used cod for these but any white fish will do – including smoked fish (though probably not kippers). You could even use salmon if you fancy being decadent. Additional ingredients like chives and leeks are common in fishcakes too and I have even seen Asian spiced ones which included ginger, chilli, turmeric and coriander. These really are perfect to use for experimenting with flavours.

For this recipe, I have assumed that you are starting with nothing prepared or precooked however if you are starting with premade mash or using tinned fish, the prep time will be drastically decreased. Enjoy the recipe and I hope you will discover just how simple these can be.

 

 

Fishcakes

Serves: 5

Time: 2 hours

Cost per portion: around £1.30

 

300g fish (I would use cod or haddock, perhaps even salmon if I was feeling decadent)

600g potato

1 medium onion/ 6 spring onions

2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley

1 egg

1 clove garlic (minced)

¼ tsp freshly grated nutmeg

Salt and pepper

 

To coat:

Flour

1 egg

Panko breadcrumbs/medium matzah meal

Oil for frying

 

 

Cut the potatoes into small pieces and place in a pan of cold water on the stove. Add about a teaspoon of salt to the pan

Heat until the water starts to boil and let simmer for ten minutes until the potato is cooked – you should be able to insert a skewer into the pieces with very little resistance.

Drain the potato into a colander and leave to cool for five minutes. Do not remove the potato from the colander as more water will leave the potatoes as steam which will help prevent the fishcakes being soggy.

Mash the potatoes. If you have a Mouli or a potato ricer, this will give you the best result but a hand masher will work too.55437930_549514922123949_8495275106229026816_n

Leave the potatoes to cool. I like to do this in a large bowl and spread the mash up the sides as this increases the surface area so the mash will cool much faster.

 

While the potatoes are cooking, place the fish into a frying pan and fill with water until it just covers the fish You could also add herbs (bay leaves for example) to the water to give a bit of extra flavour.

Cover the frying pan and bring the water to a simmer. Leave for about five minutes until the fish is cooked (there should be no translucent areas).

Remove the fish from the water and leave to cool for twenty minutes or so.

Finely chop the onions and place them in a large bowl.

Add the cooled mash, nutmeg, garlic, salt, at least five grinds of pepper and the egg.

55450451_2559714147375593_7873243690058121216_n (1)

Use your hands or a fork to gently flake the cooked fish. It should come off the skin when you do this. If you find any small bones, just remove them now.

Add the fish to the other ingredients and gently mix together. I prefer to do this by hand – it’s a little bit messy but it prevents the fish getting pulverised so there will still be small flakes in the finished product.

 

Pour around 50g plain flour into a wide bowl for coating the fishcakes.

Divide the batter into ten portions and shape them (by hand) into patties.

After shaping each one, place it in the flour and make sure it is evenly coated before placing it onto a board.

56232382_375447373298395_2492485193928015872_n

Once all ten have been shaped and floured, place them in the fridge for 20 minutes to firm up.

 

In a bowl, crack and beat an egg with a fork until it is no longer gelatinous. In a separate, wide bowl, measure out about 100g breadcrumbs/matzah meal. You can add seasonings to this coating too but be careful, spices are likely to burn in the oil if you add them here so it is safest to stick to a little salt and pepper.

Keeping one hand wet and one hand dry, take the fishcakes one at a time and lightly coat in the egg and then the breadcrumbs.

Place them back on the board after each coating. If any little bits of fishcake fall off, keep these for testing that the oil is the right temperature.

54798192_285648675683677_1745243734343155712_n

 

Add vegetable oil to a frying pan until it around 1cm deep.

Heat this until a small piece of fishcake dropped in starts to bubble.

55458247_1373999792742784_1128030717427580928_n

Fry the fishcakes a few at a time until the base is golden, flip them and repeat with the other side. Keep flipping until the fishcakes are a deep brown colour (but not burnt).

55576055_1780104682136431_6888775999710822400_n

55517391_431431754281763_7671926851928850432_n

Serve hot.

55778972_348697975772262_2425621448006565888_n

The fishcakes can be frozen both pre and post cooking, if you want to do it before you cook them, shape and flour the fishcakes before placing them in the freezer on the board. After they have gone solid, you can place them all into a bag together but if you do that too early, they fishcakes will deform and stick together.

 

I hope you enjoyed the recipe. If you love fish, why not check out my salmon kedgeree or ever my pan-fried salmon with crispy skin, it is delicious.

Have a good one and I will be back next week with a recipe for miniature cakes, perfect for afternoon tea.

Salmon en Croute

For some reason, wrapping food in puff pastry has become a sign of classy, luxurious, up-market dining. Whilst anything wrapped in puff pastry is clearly luxurious and decadent, I would not go as far as saying it makes a dish classy. There is a bizarre mystique surrounding this pastry, most likely because it is such a nightmare to make, but in a society where we can walk into almost any supermarket and buy it premade (who actually has time to make puff pastry from scratch…) the grand dinners you see at restaurants can easily be recreated at home.

 

The term “en croute” means in pastry and as such, can really be applied to any food that is cooked in a pastry shell. Boeuf en croute – otherwise known as Beef Wellington – another classic ‘posh’ dish that is incredibly simple to make. Originally, hot water crust or shortcrust pastry would have been used to wrap up meats for cooking as it helps keep in moisture and flavour. The pastry could be burnt but then discarded after cooking leaving a delicious meal. This style of cooking has been around for as long as pastry has, with recipes for meat and fish wrapped in pastry dating back to the time of the Tudors.

25552523_1803207796377584_1577480662_o
Beef Wellington is something everyone should try!

 

Different meats and fish lend themselves well to different pastries as you can only cook the food in the oven for as long as it takes the pastry to go golden brown. Fillet steak and salmon lend themselves well to puff pastry as they are cooked in a short time – you will still need to rest any meat that gets cooked this way to ensure that it isn’t dry. Larger pieces of meat have to be seared for longer in a pan to precook them as, if it takes 40 minutes in the oven to cook the meat well, you will end up with your meal en carbone.

 

Most salmon en croute recipes involve layers of salmon, some sort of creamy dairy element and spinach. The recipe below adheres to this idea but includes an extra element: a basic pesto style sauce folded into the cream cheese. This herby flavour gives the dish lightness which is necessary for something surrounded by a large quantity of pastry. As always, you want to avoid a soggy bottom on your pastry. To try and prevent this, the spinach is wrung out to ensure that it contains as little moisture as possible. The cream cheese is thick and spreadable and while it can be exchanged for sour cream or crème fraiche, these have a far higher moisture content so could soak through the pastry. If you have to use either of these, I would advise hanging them in a cheese cloth for an hour before cooking to try and strain out some of the liquid.

 

This recipe is delicious served with leeks or some other vegetable and a small amount of potato. You don’t want to overload the plate with carbs but when the pastry is rolled out thin enough to cover four fillets, there isn’t much per person.

 

Salmon en Croute

Prep Time: 45 minutes

Cook time: 30 minutes

Serves 4

Price per serving: about £2.80

 

4 fillets of salmon

1 packet (500g) puff pastry

8g fresh basil

Olive oil

2 cloves garlic

180g cream cheese

450g fresh spinach

1 medium onion

Oil

1 beaten egg

 

 

Thinly slice the onions and sauté in a pan with a little oil until the onion turn soft (about 5 mins).

DSC05161

Add the spinach and gently stir until wilted. You may have to do this in a few batches.

DSC05162
before wilting…
DSC05165
….and after

Once the spinach is just wilted, place it into a sieve and press down to squeeze out all the liquid in order to prevent the pastry going soggy. Set aside to cool.

 

Skin the salmon. To do this, place the fish skin side down on a cutting board. Use a very sharp knife to cut inwards from a corner between the skin and the flesh about a centimetre. Pin the flap of skin to the board with your non-dominant hand. Slide the knife along the skin at a 45° angle to separate the skin from the fish. (Online videos can really help with this if you are still struggling).

DSC05159

DSC05160

Turn the oven to gas mark 7 (210°C) to preheat.

 

Place the garlic and basil into a blender and blend until a rough paste is formed. Add the olive oil and blend until it forms a paste. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

DSC05167

Fold the pesto into the cream cheese.

DSC05168

The salmon fillets will be placed next to each other to create one large block of fish – one giant salmon en croute – so roll out the puff pastry to three times the combined length of the salmon and about two inches above and below it.

 

Spread a large spoonful of spinach mix in the centre of the pastry and add the salmon fillets with the original skin side up.

DSC05170

Smear the cream cheese mixture over the salmon and top with a little more of the spinach.

DSC05171

Brush the outer wings of pastry with the beaten egg and fold them tightly into the centre.

 

Seal the edges and fold them up.

 

Flip the parcel into a lined baking tray so you have a smooth surface on the top.

 

Bake for 10 minutes and then turn the oven down to gas mark 6 (200°C) and continue to cook for another 30 minutes.

DSC05176
excess pastry can be used to decorate the parcel

Remove the salmon from the oven and cover with foil. Leave to rest for five to ten minutes before serving.

47205307_2257465351191640_2112502664087470080_n

 

 

I hope you enjoyed the recipe. If you love dishes like this, be sure to check out my Beef Wellington recipe or, if you are looking for something a little bit on the sweeter side, why not treat yourself to a delicious tart, you could try chocolate (with or without salted caramel) or even treat yourself to a delicious apple pie.

 

Have a good one and I will be back next week with a Christmassy biscuit recipe.

 

H

 

Salmon Curry

Curry powder is a wonderful thing. It makes life a lot easier when you can buy a premixed spice blend to make dinner with but sometimes it just isn’t quite the right ratios for what you are looking for and you have to make it yourself.

Unlike most curry powders, the spice mix I’ve used in this recipe doesn’t contain either pepper or ginger but instead replaces them with tamarind paste giving a slight tang to the curry which goes perfectly with mango chutney. Tamarind paste is one of my favourite ingredients in cooking. It gives sourness to dishes which provides a depth of flavour otherwise lost if you replace the tamarind with lemon or lime juice.

Tamarind grows in pods with a fleshy interior and large flat seeds. The young fruit are very sour and are used in savoury dishes and as a pickling agent owing to the high concentration of tartaric acid in the flesh. As the fruits age and ripen, they become significantly sweeter and start to be used in jam and desserts instead. One of the most eaten dishes which uses tamarind as a primary flavouring is Pad Thai. The sauce uses both tamarind and sugar along with several other seasonings and this mixture of sour and sweet is almost impossible to stop eating.

The recipe below doesn’t use tamarind as a primary ingredient but the addition of it gives the curry sauce a hot and sour flavour which pairs beautifully with a slightly sweeter accompaniment like dahl. The coconut milk gives a creamy, velvety mouth feel to the sauce helping offset the aggressive flavours in the curry without taking away from the taste. Of course depending on how spicy you like your curry, you can add more dried chilli or even fresh chillies during cooking to take your meal from a gentle warming feeling to melt your face off hot. One of the best things about this dish is how quick it is to prepare. The whole thing can be done in about ten minutes. I use a rice cooker at home and I tend to let it finish cooking the rice before I start cooking the salmon for this. The speed of this dish makes it perfect for a weeknight dinner especially if you are getting home late and don’t want to spend ages slaving away over a hot hob.

As always with this kind of meal, you can exchange the salmon for chicken or another choice of meat or fish or even make a tofu or vegetable curry. Just make sure to cook everything first before you add the curry sauce as the sauce cooks very quickly. If you want to cut time even further, you can make up a large batch of curry powder by premixing the spices and just taking a tablespoon as and when you want to make this dish.

Salmon Curry

Prep time: 5 minutes

Cook time: 10 minutes

Serves: 2

Cost per serving: around £2

½ tsp turmeric

½ tsp chilli powder (or more if you like it spicy)

1 tsp tamarind paste

1 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp ground coriander

3 large cloves of garlic – minced

½ tsp salt

200ml coconut milk

2 salmon fillets with the skin removed cut in half width-wise

2 tbsp vegetable oil

Mix the turmeric, chilli powder, cumin, coriander, garlic, salt and tamarind in a bowl with 160ml water (2/3 cup).

Heat the vegetable oil in a large non-stick frying pan until it starts to glisten.

Place the salmon fillets into the pan careful not to get splashed by hot oil. Place the fillets with the side that the skin was on upwards.

36734539_2032526113445750_734963256187158528_n

Sear the salmon for around four minutes until the underside starts to go golden.

Flip the pieces of salmon and pour in the spice mix. This will bubble a lot so be prepared for a large quantity of steam.

36698232_2032526180112410_4484535925400928256_n

Let the mixture bubble for about two minutes to cook the spices and then add the coconut milk into the pan and stir this through.

Allow the salmon to cook for another few minutes until it is your desired doneness. This takes around three minutes for softer, flakier fish or five minutes for fish that is a little drier.

36659297_2032526300112398_2138893275321335808_n

Serve with rice and your choice of sides. I like to have this with dahl and mango chutney.

36770615_2032526463445715_5232498608779034624_n

I hope you enjoyed the recipe. Salmon is my favourite fish and the more ways I learn how to cook it, the more often I can eat it without getting bored. If you aren’t a fan of curry, my pan seared salmon with lemon cous-cous is also a super quick dish and is probably slightly healthier than this one as it doesn’t have coconut milk in it. It you are looking for something a little bit more on the sweet side, check out how to make yourself a peach galette. It’s a sweet pastry covered which doesn’t require any tins – all you need is a baking tray!

Have a good one and I will be back next week with a recipe filled with chocolatey goodness.

H

Pan-Seared Salmon

I am a recent convert to crispy fish skin. If cooked correctly, it can be delicious – great flavour, great texture, what isn’t to like? The one downside is that cooking fish in a pan to achieve crispy skin is a bit of an act of faith. Once the salmon is in the pan, you have to avoid moving it until you are ready to flip it for the best results. It took me a couple of tries to find the best temperature to cook the fish at to ensure both that the fish was cooked to perfection and the skin was no longer slimy. There are few things more disappointing than looking forward to getting a mouthful of delicate fish with crispy skin and discovering that it is still slippery and oily.

The beautiful thing about pan searing salmon is that the skin acts as an insulator for the fish. This means that the fish doesn’t end up being overcooked and rubbery. The layer of fat between the skin and the fish melts down and helps fry the skin while the flesh of the salmon is gently heated until it is cooked just how you like it. One thing to remember is that if you prefer your salmon on the rare side, you will want to use a higher temperature pan so you do not have to cook it for so long and the skin will still be nice and crispy while the inside is still translucent.

Couscous is an underrated food. It is made by rolling semolina into tiny pellets and sprinkling them with flour to keep them separate. It can be eaten both hot and cold and, owing to its absorbent nature, you can put all kinds of flavourings with it. The lemon and coriander in this recipe helps keep it nice and fresh and the almonds give a good crunch but you can add vegetables to it if you like. Finely chopped pepper, onion and spices can give your couscous a more Mediterranean taste and it isn’t uncommon for people to add small cubes of cooked meat to it. Leftovers can be made into salads or just eaten as a snack!

This recipe uses traditional instant couscous. It is very quick and simple to prepare and is ready in around the same amount of time as the salmon so everything can be served together. I have also used rice to replace the couscous. Personally I prefer the couscous version as rice takes longer to cook and also absorbs flavours differently. Using couscous results in a much lighter meal which is nice as it leaves you able to do things after eating instead of curling up into a ball and going to sleep. That being said, the recipe still works very well with rice which is great if you are gluten free.

30411813_1925020804196282_1473172850520096768_o
Cook the rice in stock with the juice of half a lemon (or more if you prefer).

Crispy skin brings another texture to the plate and is so wonderful to eat. I hope you enjoy the recipe!

 

 

Pan-Seared Salmon

Prep time: 15 minutes

Cook time: 15 minutes

Cost per portion: £2.75

 

Ingredients:

2 salmon fillets

30g fresh coriander

150g couscous

190ml weak vegetable stock

2 tbsp olive oil

1 lemon

2 cloves garlic

150g spinach

2 tbsp vegetable oil

salt

30g flaked almonds (optional)

 

Place the almonds in a dry frying pan and heat, stirring regularly.

30415697_1925020564196306_6393554261753462784_n

Once the almonds look golden, pour them into a bowl and set aside. Keep the pan for future steps, it doesn’t need to be washed up yet.

Finely chop the coriander, place in a bowl and stir in one tablespoon of olive oil and a pinch of salt.

30414902_1925020834196279_7039209823413469184_o

Finely chop the garlic, zest the lemon and place it all into the frying pan with the remaining tablespoon of olive oil.

30443386_1925020650862964_3806648300631752704_n

Turn the heat on and the moment the garlic starts to brown, add in the vegetable stock and squeeze half the lemon into it.

Once the stock is boiling, pour it over the couscous. Stir to make sure none of the couscous is still dry, cover with a plate and set aside.

 

Remove the salmon from its packaging and pat down the skin side to remove excess liquid. Sprinkle with a little salt – if you have sea salt, this is even better than the regular stuff!

Put the vegetable oil into the frying pan. Once the oil is very hot and starts to look slightly shimmery place the salmon fillets in, skin side down. Lay them away from you so if the oil splashes at all, it will splash away from you, so you won’t get burned.

You now have to leave the salmon until it’s cooked about 80% of the way through, you can keep an eye on it by watching the line where the salmon goes from translucent to opaque move up the fish. Do not touch and move it as this will prevent the skin from crisping up.

Once the salmon is in the pan, boil the kettle and start to cook the spinach. If it is fresh, you only need to dunk it in boiling water for around 30 seconds, but if you are using frozen spinach you should place the spinach along with a tablespoon of water into a pan with a lid and cook until the spinach has all thawed, is hot and ready to eat.

Once the salmon is cooked around 80% through, flip it flesh side down in the pan.

Check on the couscous. It should have absorbed all of the liquid by now. If it is a little cool, place it in the microwave for 30 seconds. Stir through the almonds reserving a few for garnishing the meal.

Place the couscous onto a plate and add the spinach on top.

30441146_1925020800862949_257590122411720704_o

Remove the salmon from the pan and lay it skin side up on top of the couscous. Drizzle with the coriander oil and scatter with the remaining flaked almonds.

30441367_1925020824196280_3882856568244404224_o

 

I hope you enjoyed the recipe. If you fancy a light dessert, why not try making some meringues? They are super crisp, full of air and pair beautifully with cream and fruits. Why not make it a three-course meal and add a starter? My tomato and red pepper soup is wonderfully fresh and will set you up nicely for the rest of the food that’s coming – it can also be a great lunch if you don’t have time to do more than heat something up as it keeps very well in the freezer!

Have a good one and I will be back next week with another cake recipe.

H