Saturday, April 21, 2007

Turbot & salmon fishcakes with lemon & chive sauce

This is an old classic back in England using leftover bits of fish, 'fleshed out' with some mashed potatoes shaped into cakes and fried or baked. When we didn't have enough money for prime cod at the chippy, we'd always buy fishcakes as a fairly priced substitute. And we'd need some spare change for mushy peas too.

You will need, for four large cakes, or eight smaller ones:

1 lb of fish (I used turbot and salmon beacuse they both looked great at the fishmonger)
about 3/4 pint of milk
1 lb of mashed potatoes, cold
1/2 cup of finely chopped chives
seasoned flour, beaten egg (2) and fine corn meal for coating
olive oil for frying
a few sprinkles of Parmesan cheese
1 tsp flour
1 tbsp butter
a dash of heavy cream (optional) milk
juice of half a lemon
1 tbsp of chopped chives

This one is dead easy. Poach your fish: Put the fillets on a frying pan or skillet, cover with the milk, bring to the boil, turn off the heat, and let it sit for 5-6 minutes. The residual heat will cook the fish. Drain, reserving all the poaching milk, and let the fish cool. When cold, break the fish into large flakes, add the mash and chives and season with salt and pepper. Mix briefly and form the mixture into cakes. I use a ring mould with the mixture dropped onto a sheet of baking paper covering a cutting board or something to keep everything flat and easy to transport in and out of the fridge. Put the mixture in the fridge to chill untilo firm. This might take about 2 hours for solid cakes, anything less and you'll struggle with the coating exercises. Cover each cake with seasoned flour, into the beaten egg and into the corn meal. Put these back in the fridge to chill for about 1/2 hour. Heat the oil (medium heat) in a non-stick pan, drop the cakes in (maybe do this in batches so the oil doesn't cool too quickly - resulting in soggy, fat-soaked cakes) and fry until golden and crisp, about 4-5 minutes on each side for a large cake, redude the time for smaller ones. Drain and keep warm in a low oven. Sprinkle with the Parmesan to form some extra crunch on the top.

Heat the flour and butter in a pan and cook this roux until it's golden brown. Add the reserved poaching milk very gradually, stirring all the time to make a thin simple white sauce. Add the cream if using, add chives, season to taste. At the last minute, you should add the lemon juice (again, to taste) to the sauce.

I plated it up with some crushed broad beans and broccoli rabe in the middle, and a big sturdy golden nugget of fishcake on the top and the chive lemon sauce to form a moat around that. I ate this with a chilled glass of crisp Sauvignon in the back garden, now that the weather is finally here.

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