I was never terribly keen on fishcakes as a child. They mostly came pre-packaged and frozen, flattened discs of an indeterminate starchy substance powder-coated in fluorescent orange particles. Sometimes they were shaped like a child’s drawing of a fish, which presumably meant either that the manufacturer had just hired a new marketing manager with whimsical tendencies or needed a foolproof way of separating the fishcakes from the otherwise indistinguishable potato croquettes. I daresay it didn’t help that I once found half a beetle in one. Half a beetle, please note. I sincerely hope that the other half was still somewhere in a field and not in the previous forkful. So it is perhaps not surprising that I’d been cooking for a couple of decades before I finally learned to make proper fishcakes.
When I did, of course I wondered why it took me so long. They have been a fixture in my repertoire ever since, mainly cooked in spring or autumn when maincrop potatoes are available. Crushed new potatoes tend not to stick together in the same way as mashed maincrop potato does, so I don’t think new potatoes would bind properly, though I haven’t tried it to find out.
Here’s my recipe:
8 oz (approx 250 g) assorted fish pieces, e.g. salmon, cod, haddock, smoked haddock, skate, according to taste and availability, skin and bones removed. If you have some left over from making a fish pie, that’s ideal.
8 oz (approx 250 g) maincrop potatoes
1 Tablespoon (approx) chopped fresh parsley, or about 1 teaspoon (1 x 5 ml spoon) dried parsley
Milk or cream to mix
Plain flour for coating
Peel, boil and mash the potatoes. Stir in some butter to taste if liked, but careful not to get the mash too sloppy or the fishcakes won’t bind.
Cut the fish into small pieces, about 0.25 inch (approx 0.5 cm) across. If the fish is already cooked, e.g. if it was left over from making a fish pie, flake it into pieces.
Mix the mashed potatoes, fish and chopped parsley in a bowl, and season with salt and black pepper. Add a teaspoon or two of milk or cream if needed to make it all stick together. The mixture should be firm but not sloppy.
Shape the mixture into four rounds (or any other shape you fancy) and flatten them to about 0.5 inch (approx 1 cm) thick.
Coat the rounds in plain flour.
Shallow-fry the fishcakes in cooking oil in a wok or frying pan over a medium heat for about 5 minutes until the underside is crisp and golden-brown, then carefully turn them over and fry another 5 minutes on the other side. The times are approximate, as it will depend on the heat, the thickness of the fishcakes, and the depth of the oil in the pan, so use your judgement.
Serve with mashed or new potatoes and salad or a green vegetable of your choice. I like them with asparagus.