There are a lot of things I like about living in a city that clings to the coastline. Beaches close enough to grab a swim after work or school when summer is at its most punishing; the blessing of sea breezes and the drama of storms blowing in from the sea; incredible natural beauty that unexpectedly grabs you as you turn a corner; and then there is the seafood. I hadn't really contemplated what a rare and special thing it was to have amazing access to fish and seafood until I started food blogging. By my estimate, fewer than 1 in 50 recipes I come across on the net are for either fish or seafood, while 1 in 5 is for some sort of cake. It seems there are many excellent cooks who rarely (if ever) tackle anything aquatic in their kitchen. More fool them. Apart from the health advice recommending people eat fish once or twice a week, they are also missing out on something simple and delicious and fast.
My one gripe about fish, at least as it is sold to me, is in portion sizes. I often splurge on Atlantic Salmon fillets which come in from Tasmania. Sold by the kilo, the salmon is often cut into fillets that are huge, creating a dilemma (buy enough fillets so that everyone gets one, or let someone eat the offcuts of a couple of fillets????). Happily, this recipe solves the problem. Buy a fillet per person, knowing that you will have a scrumptious use of the leftovers in these fishcakes. Even better if you also have leftover mashed potato in the fridge. (I have even successfully used leftover cooked salmon in this recipe. Just skip the poaching steps and proceed).
PS Apologies about the photo. This is the third time I have made these and photographed them for the blog. While they taste fabulous, it is hard to make them look as beautiful as they should. The recipe comes from Nigel Slater in his fantastic cookbook "Appetite". I am only a recent convert to his books, but I highly recommend his relaxed, flexible, non-prescriptive style.
Fishcakes to Console
from "Appetite" by Nigel Slater
500g salmon, haddock, cod, hake or any large-flaked white fish
milk – for baking the fish in
flour – a little for coating
butter and oil – for frying
Heat oven to 200C. Peel the potatoes and cut them into large chunks, then boil them to tenderness in salted water.
Meanwhile, put the fish into a baking dish, almost cover with milk – you can add a bay leaf or two if you like – then bake until the fish is opaque and will come easily from the bone or skin when you pull it. You can expect this to take about 10 to 15 minutes, bearing in mind that different types of fish take slightly different times to cook. Drain the potatoes, putting them back into the empty pan over a moderate heat for a few minutes if they seem wet, then mash them with a potato masher.
Lift the fish from the milk, reserving the liquid, then pull the flakes away from the bones and skin. Tip the fish into the mashed potato, add salt and grind over some black pepper (if you wish to add any of the additional seasonings below, do so now), and mix briefly and gently, so as not to crush the flakes of fish too much.
Shape the mixture into patties, as large or as small as you like – I favour ones the size of a digestive biscuit and the thickness of an English muffin – coating each one lightly in flour as you go. I think you should avoid the temptation to err towards perfection. Wobbly cooking has a certain charm about it.
Melt a little butter and oil in a frying pan – you need enough to coat the bottom of the pan – and fry your cakes till they are softly golden. This should take no more than a couple of minutes on each side. Serve plain or with your sauce of choice.