Readers’ recipe swap: Fishcakes | Dale Berning Sawa

Readers recipe swap: Our new recipe tester starts her stint in the kitchen with a shoal of golden patties

I couldnt actually have picked a better topic to start working on this column with. Fishcakes are among the very first things my eye goes to on a menu, like a cat homing in on the ball in a TV tennis match. And this holds true across the board , no matter the cuisine whether its eomuk bokkeum in Korean delis or simply the cod and mashed potato patties served with chips in a British tavern they all work. Ive been trying to set my thumb on exactly why this is, and I think it simmers down to this: a fishcake is the whole shebang, a full meal shaped into a neat little parcel lighter than a meatball, meatier than a veggie fritter and a wonderful vehicle for a host of aromatics and seasonings, from soy to dill to harissa, as Ive discovered here. Plus, theyre generally fried or, even better, deep fried, and when was that not a winning strategy?

The winning recipe: Mackerel, harissa, apricot and pistachio fishcakes

This from ColonialCravings commanded my full attention. Mackerel is no wallflower. It takes a special kind of diplomacy for it not to predominate a dish, a task at which this Levant-inspired trio of flavor excels. The fiery kick from the harissa was unexpected. Theres such fruitiness to its spice, which the dried apricot highlightings excellently. Induced me think of Honey& Co and their quick-fire mathuba, where the spices and veg that dress the hake cook down to a sticky sweet jam. Mixing ground pistachios into the breadcrumb coating brings another fragrant note. There were no serving suggestions, but a sauce of tahini, mayo, harissa and lemon juice did the trick.


Harissa fishcakes taken by colonialcravings, who says: Its a good idea to keep the mash for fishcakes as dry as is practicable so that they hold together well. Photograph: ColoninalCravings/ GuardianWitness

Makes 6-8
600g potatoes, cut into chunks
2 tbsp mayonnaise
2-3 tbsp harissa
Salt and black pepper
1/ 2 onion, finely diced
75g dried apricots, finely chopped
350g cooked skinless mackerel fillets
1 egg, beaten
3 tbsp flour
6-8 tbsp panko breadcrumbs
40g ground pistachios
Flavourless oil, for frying

1 Bring a large pan of water to simmer and add the potatoes. Boil until “they il be” tender, but not breaking up( about 10 minutes ). Drain and then return them to the hot pan to allow them to dry out a little. Add the mayonnaise, harissa and some salt and pepper, then mash them with a fork until theyre smooths and fluffy. Leave the potato to cool.

2 Fry the onion in a little petroleum or butter until it is tender and just starting to brown.

3 Mix the apricot and the onion into the potatoes. Flake the cooked mackerel, leaving it quite chunky, and fold this into the cooled potato mixture.

4 Set out three shallow dishes and add the flour to one, the beat egg to another and the breadcrumbs and pistachios( blended) to another.

5 Shape the fishcake mixture into 6-8 evenly sized patties. Coat each one in the flour, then the egg and finally the breadcrumbs and nuts, then set them on a baking sheet and chill in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.

6 Heat 2 tbsp petroleum in a frying pan and fry the fishcakes over a moderate hot for a few minutes on both sides, until “they il be” crisp and golden and warmed through to the centre.

Tartare sauce fishcakes

MarmadukeScarlets recipe is one of the more involved, but running that extra mile( poaching the fish in milk and herbs, chopping up all the crunchy pickles of the tartare sauce) induced for a plateful that ranked high in terms of flavor, texture and looking. A sophisticated take on the trad British dish. I tried both panfrying and deepfrying them, and although Marmaduke Scarlet says she opts for the former, the latter gave beautiful golden orbs by far the prettiest catch of this session.

Marmaduke Scarlets tartare sauce fishcakes: All the components of a tartare sauce, such as capers and gherkins, as well as green olives stuffed with pimento. Photograph: Rachel Kelly/ GuardianWitness

Serves 3-4
250g white fish( haddock, pollock or whiting)
200-300ml milk
2 bay leaves
A sprig of thyme
250g mashed potato, seasoned
1 tbsp fresh parsley, finely chopped
1 tbsp capers, finely chopped
1 tbsp gherkins, finely chopped
1 tbsp green olives, finely chopped
1 egg yolk
Salt and black pepper
1 tbsp butter, for frying
1 tbsp olive oil, for frying
A handful of plain flour, seasoned
1 egg, beaten
A handful of dried breadcrumbs

1 Preheat the oven to 200 C/ 400 F/ gas mark 6. Poach the fish in the milk, bay foliages and fresh thyme for about 10 minutes. Set aside to cool. Then drain.( You can keep the poaching liquid for something else, perhaps making a fish sauce ).

2 Flake the cooled fish and add to the mashed potatoes along with the parsley, gherkins, capers, olives, flaked fish and egg yolk and stir well to blend. Season with a bit more salt and pepper.

3 Make the fishcakes by moulding balls of the mixture and flattening them out. Put on a lined baking sheet and put in the refrigerator to firm up for about 30 minutes.

4 To coat the fishcakes, dip each one in flour, then beaten egg and finally in breadcrumbs.

5 While you can deep-fry the fishcakes( 180 C/ 350 F for 3-4 minutes ), I prefer to shallow-fry mine in petroleum and butter for 1-2 minutes on both sides, before finishing them in the oven( 160 C/ 325 F/ gas mark 3) for another 5-10 minutes.

Satsuma age( Japanese fishcakes )

Rhian Williams learned this recipe from her Japanese mom, and thats what builds it so good: this is authentic Japanese home cooking. Nothing fancy or fussy, simply economy and simplicity, in both flavour and method. While it is possible to shallow, rather than deep fry, these, the latter works best, bringing to the fore the subtle flavours.

Serves 2
2 cod fillets( about 200 g)
2 spring onions, finely sliced
1 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp cornflour
Vegetable petroleum, enough to deep-fry

1 Put the raw cod fillets in a blender and whizz until smooth. Add the spring onions, soy sauce and cornflour.

2 Shape the mixture into golf ball-sized balls and flatten slightly.

3 Hot up enough petroleum to deep fry the fishcakes. Once the petroleum has reached around 180 C/ 350 F, fry them until both sides are crisp and golden brown.

4 Serve with a mix of soy sauce and wasabi or a mix of soy sauce and grated ginger.

Smoked mackerel fishcakes

Susanne Andereggs pic of her smoked mackerel fishcakes: By transforming mackerel into a fishcake, it magically disappears into small children tummy without them remembering to ask for some ketchup she says. Photograph: Suzanne Anderegg/ GuardianWitness

The fact that SuzanneAnderegg s recipe calls for smoked mackerel instantaneously endeared it to me. Intensely, richly flavoursome; plus, as Suzanne says, its a win with kids. So good, so easy.

Makes 6
120g breadcrumbs
340g smoked mackerel, skinned and crumbled
2 spring onions, chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
2 tbsp mayonnaise
2 eggs
2 tbsp olive oil
Lemon wedges, to serve

1 Put the breadcrumbs, mackerel, spring onion and garlic in a large bowl and stir together. Add the mayonnaise and egg and mix in until it begins to form a large mass.

2 Carefully shape the mixture into firm fishcakes by using your hands to gently squeeze the mixture together.

3 Heat a nonstick frying pan to medium hot with olive oil. Cook the fishcakes about 3-5 minutes each side until golden. Serve warm with lemon wedges.

Quick and fiery sweet potato fishcakes( gluten-free )

Harriet Owens fishcakes are instantly pleasing, which I put down to the sweetness of the sweet potato and how it jostles with the chilli. The fish here definitely plays a background role. In fact, when I next make this recipe, I might just add in an extra tin.

Makes 4
200g sweet potatoes, scrubbed and roughly chopped
120g tin of your preferred tinned fish( I use sardines ), drained
1 red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
1/ 2 small red onion, finely chopped
10g fresh coriander( foliages and stubbles ), rinsed and chopped
Salt and black pepper
3 tbsp gram flour
Olive petroleum, for mashing and frying
Slices of lemon to serve

1 Cook the sweet potatoes in simmering water for 15 -2 0 minutes, until soft. When they slip speedily off the end of a sharp knife, theyre done. Drain, cool with cold water and set aside. When cool, mash with a drizzle of olive oil.

2 Drop the drained fish into a bowl and mash coarsely with a fork. Add the chilli, red onion, coriander, and combination. Mix in the mashed sweet potato and season well.

3 Put the gram flour in a bowl and season with black pepper. Pop a large frying pan over a medium hot and add a couple of good glugs of oil.

4 While the pan heats, make four balls out of the mixture and flatten them slightly with your palms. One by one, carefully set each cake into the gram flour. Make sure theyre evenly coated.

5 When the petroleum is hot, add the fishcakes. Cook on both sides for about 5 minutes, or until golden and crisp on the outside, and piping hot in the middle. Serve immediately with more coriander, black pepper and a squeeze of lemon juice.

Balinese fishcakes

The aromatics in Bobby Anantas fishcakes lemongrass, ginger, galangal and makrut lime leaves never fails and the coconut adds an addictive sweetness, and these were so exhaustively enjoyable.

Makes 12 -1 4
2 red onions or 6 Indonesian shallots, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2cm fresh ginger, finely chopped
2 lemongrass stubbles, finely chop the white bits( soft part)
1cm galangal, finely chopped
1 red chilli, deseeded and finely sliced
220g cod fillet, chopped
100g tuna fillet, chopped
200g desiccated coconut, steamed( fresh if possible)
2 eggs, light beaten
2 tbsp gram flour
100ml coconut milk
8 makrut lime foliages, stem removed, very finely sliced

1 In a food processor, blitz the onion, garlic, ginger, lemongrass and galangal into a fine paste.

2 Add the chilli, fish, desiccated coconut, and eggs. Process for another 10 -1 5 seconds.

3 Transfer into a large bowl and add the makrut lime leaves, gram flour and coconut milk. Season to taste, combine well and, using your hands, divide into 12 -1 4 flattened balls.

4 Shallow fry over a medium hot for 4-5 minutes on both sides until golden brown. Serve with rujak ( spicy Indonesian fruit salad ).

Kimchi fishcake

These I knew Id love. TwinnyDip say they were inspired by Korean kimchijeon ( kimchi pancakes) that other Korean deli favourite of mine and thats obvious from the first bite. I love the addition of squid.

Makes 4-6
50g kimchi
100g white fish( eg cod or haddock)
75g squid rings, chopped
1/ 2 onion, chopped
2-3 spring onions, chopped
1 egg, softly beaten
100g flour
50g cornflour
1 tsp vegetable oil
1 tsp light soy sauce
Salt and white pepper
Vegetable petroleum, for frying

1 Roughly mince half of the fish and marinate in 1/2 tsp light soy sauce and a pinch of white pepper. Cut the remaining fish into cubes.

2 In a bowl, mix the flour and minced white fish. Then add kimchi, the fish cubes, chopped squid rings, onion, half the spring onion and petroleum. Mix well. Add the softly beaten egg, season with the remaining soy sauce, salt and white pepper. Mix well.

3 Sprinkle the cornflour on a plate. Divide the fishcake batter into 4-6 portions, then shape them into patties and coat them with cornflour.

4 Heat the vegetable oil in a frying pan, and add the patties once hot. Fry them for a couple of minutes on both sides. Serve them on a plate, sprinkled with the remaining spring onion.

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