Fishcakes with Tartare Sauce

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A few years ago, I posted a recipe here for a light, potato-less fishcake, which perfectly suited the gorgeous weather we were having that May, and the unseasonal outdoor dinners we’d already started having that year.

If anything, this recipe is its winter cousin, more suited to the blustery, icy winds that have characterised the end of this winter, better equipped as they are to warm and fatten you. They’re closer to what most people probably think of as a fishcake (though anyone who has kneaded blended squid to make something that passes for an authentic Thai fishcake will know that there’s no single pin in that particular map) and really suit a household whose fridge tend to perpetually contain some quantity of leftover mashed potatoes, as ours does. You can of course make your own specially, though it’ll feel more frugal if you don’t.

This is a very simple recipe that’s designed to lean quite heavily on the green ingredients, whose flavours make the outcome really sing. I used cod, but any flaky fish would happily do the job.

With a few bits on the side, this should do as a light dinner for four people.

For the fishcakes, you will need:

  • 300g cod fillets, or any other flaky fish
  • 350g cold mashed potato
  • A big handful of flat-leaf parsley, shredded
  • A big handful of dill, pulled apart
  • 1 largish spring onion, finely sliced into rounds
  • An egg

…and for the tartare sauce:

  • 1tbsp capers, finely chopped
  • 1 medium gherkin, finely chopped
  • A handful each of parsley and dill, roughly chopped
  • 100ml mayonnaise
  • 1tbsp dijon mustard

Bring a pan of salted water to the boil, turn it right down so there’s barely a bubble, and poach the fish fillets for 3-5 minutes, or until they begin to flake easily apart. Lift them carefully out of the water with a slotted spoon and leave them til they’re cool enough to handle. Don’t be tempted to cook them for any longer at this stage; you’ll be cooking them again in the fishcakes, so you don’t want them to dry out.

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Put a frying pan on a medium heat.

Put all the fishcake ingredients bar the egg and the fish into a big mixing bowl and combine with your hands, until everything’s coherent and pretty evenly distributed. Don’t be tempted to compress the mixture at all, you’re just looking to mix everything evenly.

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Flake in the poached fish and break in the egg. Add a little salt and pepper, but bear in mind, if you’re using leftovers, that there’ll be a degree of seasoning already, so go easy. Fold everything gently together until you have a loose, quite wet mixture.

Take handful of the mixture and form it into a patty around an inch thick and a palm’s width across. I got eight out of it, which isn’t a bad number to aim at for four people.

Add enough cooking oil to coat the bottom of the pan, and carefully lower in your fishcakes. You’ll probably need to do this in two goes, unless you have a giant pan. Cook them for a couple of minutes, then very carefully turn them over, using your most trusted spatula, and give them a few minutes on the other side. You’re aiming for a satisfying golden-brown crust. Accept no pale squidginess.

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Remove the first batch to a warm serving plate, and repeat until you’ve cooked the lot. Whilst you’re doing so, stir together all the ingredients for the tartare sauce, and pop it on the table in readiness.

Serve up with whatever it is you like. These feel like the kind of thing that sit very near the top of the scale in terms of pleasing everyone. It’s a dinner that could sit just as happily alongside a simple green salad, as it could any old veg, or even baked beans and carrot sticks. Whatever it is that’ll keep people happy, which is, after all, the entire point of a dinner like this.

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