Sometimes I feel like I’m stuck in a bit of a protein rut—rotating between the chicken, beef or pork dinner circuit (I love lamb, but that’s not widely shared at Casa Forbes). I’d love to break out the protein roundabout with more seafood, but I prefer to buy it fresh from a fishmonger—a big ask when you’re trying to balance work, kids, sports and other assorted activities.
I’m a late convert to frozen fish. It’s still not my favourite thing but it’s simple and easy to keep on hand and that’s often what preparing a family meals is about. (As an added bonus, most frozen fish now have some sort of provenance/eco-labelling—you can buy fish that are sustainable or fished in a sustainable manner. There’s also a handy app for your smartphone that can help with seafood purchasing decisions.)
These fish cakes are a good way to use frozen fish fillets and the inclusion of jarred anchovies and capers give the dish a nice push of salt and acid without being jarring (my kids have never noticed, or at least they’ve never said anything about it). These cakes can also be a good way to use up any leftover mashed potatoes you might have kicking around.
This is a nice comfort dish as the weather turns cool. The fish cakes go very well with a crisp green salad and some minted peas. It also makes for a great weekend lunch.
While I’m normally a big believer in tweaking recipes, in this particular one the ratios do matter—too dry and the cakes won’t form, too wet and they won’t stick together in the pan. Felicity Cloake has assembled a great recipe here so do try to stay close to her measures. (Felicity is always worth a read as she takes on one recipe a week in the Guardian. Her cookbook Perfect is also great.)
Fish Cakes – makes 4 large/ 6 medium fish cakes (Adapted from Felicity Cloake)
400 grams potatoes
250 grams fish fillet – salmon or firm white fish are best
1 tablespoon capers, chopped
2 anchovy fillets in oil, drained and finely chopped
1 egg, beaten
flour, for coating
breadcrumbs, for dusting
A generous knob of butter
1 tablespoon neutral oil
1. Peel the potatoes and cut into evenly sized chunks. Put into a large pan and cover with cold water. Add a generous pinch of salt and bring to the boil, then turn down the heat slightly and simmer until tender, but not mushy. Drain and put back into the hot pan for a minute to dry off, then roughly crush them with a fork, so they’re a mixture of mash and larger lumps.
2. Meanwhile, put the fish into a large pan and just cover with water. Bring to a simmer, then gently cook for 3–5 minutes, depending on the size of the fillets, until the skin, if any, pulls off easily, and it’s just beginning to flake. Drain, skin if necessary and set aside to cool, then break into large flakes and add to the potatoes.
3. Add the capers and anchovies and stir. Season lightly, and mix gently, adding a little of the beaten egg to bring the mixture together into patties. It shouldn’t be too sloppy. Use your hands to form into four large cakes or six smaller ones.
4. Put the remaining egg in a shallow bowl, and tip the flour and breadcrumbs on to separate saucers. Dip each fish cake in turn into the flour, the egg and finally the breadcrumbs until thoroughly coated. Put into the fridge for at least half an hour to firm up.
5. Heat a frying pan with the butter and oil until the butter begins to foam. Add the fish cakes, in batches if necessary, cook for 5 minutes on a medium-high heat until golden and well crusted, then turn them carefully over and repeat on the other side.