30 May 2012

Smoked Haddock Fishcakes (by Captain Pointybeard)

For the duration of this recipe, I'd like you to think of hubby not as "hubby", but rather as "Captain Pointybeard", for such was the moniker he assumed throughout the production of these very tasty fishcakes.

However, before I start to talk about these fishcakes, I have to set the fishcake scene for you all.

You see, fishcakes have ever been a source of discontent between Captain Pointybeard and I.  The Captain has a well known dislike - nay, quite probably closer to a hatred - of all thinks involving potato (well, unless it's a chip, or a crisp) and that, of course, includes fishcakes.

I, dear reader, am the complete opposite.  I love potatoes.  In fact, the dear Captain thinks that I must have Irish in my bloodline somewhere, such is my liking for the no-legged-spawn-of-satan, as he refers to the humble spud.  As a consequence, the more potato a fishcake contains, the happier I am.

Formed up and ready for an eggy bath
Now, in the past and during a period when we were down on our luck and particularly skint, I would make fishcakes involving mashed potato (as you do) and a tin of tuna.  If we were lucky, I might include some spring onion.  If not, it would be dried parsley.  However, in those days I was pathologically frightened of frying - which is a bit of a problem when you're making fishcakes.  Except, I discovered a recipe for "healthy fishcakes" which were oven baked.

Well they were certainly healthy for hubby - sorry, Captain Pointybeard - because having sampled a forkful of his, he would bail out and claim a marmite sandwich later.  However, this wasn't really the point, as I was supposed to be feeding the family, as opposed to feeding just son & heir and myself.  (Although, thinking on, the same thing does happen with dreadful regularity these days too - except not necessarily involving potato!).

All coated and ready for the frying pan
Son & heir (who was about 4 or 5 years old then) and myself thought they were lush.  Yes, I'm afraid son & heir has followed in his mother's footsteps (for once) and is a complete mashed potato hound - even going to the point of eating cold mashed potato sandwiches for lunch.  What?  They're nice - honest!

Let's cut back to now and you'll find that Captain Pointybeard's fishcakes are serious fishcakes.  None of this "mash some spuds, mix in the fish & bits, play pat-a-cake, bung 'em in the oven" for him.  Oooh no.

You see, apparently - and I have this on good authority (I believe my informer had a pointy beard) - at the very minimum, a fishcake is not a fishcake if it hasn't been pannéd and fried, in the style of a fish & chip shop fishcake.

Chuckling in the pan
Not only that, but a fishcake truly is not a fishcake, unless it contains a lot - and I mean A LOT - of discernible fish in the mix.  None of this "so mashed up you can't see it" fish that you get in the fish & chip shop fishcakes - nope, you have to be able to pick the pieces of fish from the potato, in order for it to register on the Captain Pointybeard Fishcake Scale.

So you'll understand why he's the one making them, and not me.

In truth, I think he did admirably well.  Especially considering that he'd never pannéd (also known as "dipped in egg and breadcrumbs") a thing in his life.  The time he spent over reducing half a french bread stick to dust in the food processor was worth every minute - and the frying was spot on.  Personally, I wasn't sure about the lemon zest with smoked fish and if you feel the way I do feel free to leave that out - but the flavour of the fish was all there and the potato had very much taken a part in the chorus as opposed to centre stage.

Aye, aye, Cap'n!
As for the quantity -v- the size of the fishcakes, it was perfect.  We each had two good sized fishcakes with one left over which took care of lunch the next day.  Captain Pointybeard served them with a few oven chips and some salad, which made for an extremely acceptable dinner.

So, that's bread, cakes, alcoholic cocktails, risotto, roast dinners and fishcakes he's got on his list.  It's reminiscent of when my brother was going for his various Scout badges - I wonder what will be next?


Ingredients :

200g smoked haddock (in fact, any fish of your choice would be fine)
200g unsmoked haddock

1 tsp olive oil
400g floury mashing potatoes such as Maris Piper
200g lightly toasted breadcrumbs
2 eggs, beaten
50g finely chopped parsley
zest of half a lemon
a pinch of cayenne pepper
sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
sunflower oil, for frying.

Method :

1.  Line a shallow baking tray with foil and then place the fish fillets on it.  Rub the fish with a little olive oil and then place under a hot grill for five minutes or until just cooked.  Remove any skin and bones from the fish before placing in a bowl and covering with clingfilm.  Set the fish aside to cool.

2.  Meanwhile, peel and roughly dice the potatoes and then cook in salted boiling water until a knife passes through them easily.  Drain the potatoes and then return to the still warm pan.  Leave to dry a little before mashing with a little sea salt & freshly ground black pepper.  Place the mashed potato in a covered bowl and leave to cool.

3.  Once the potato has cooled to room temperature, combine it with the lemon zest, parsley and cayenne pepper in a large bowl.  Check the seasoning (but be careful with salt, as it is worth remembering that the fish will be quite salty), lightly fork the fish through the mix and put the whole lot in the fridge to chill for at least one hour.

4.  Now for the fun part.  Place the beaten egg into a shallow bowl and the breadcrumbs onto a shallow baking tray.  Place a sheet of greaseproof paper onto your work surface and dust well with plain flour.

5.  Take the fishcake mixture from the fridge and form into one mass - flouring your hands beforehand helps keep things clean.  Place the mixture onto the floured paper and roll to 1.5cm thick with a floured rolling pin.  Cut out rounds from the mixture using a large scone or cookie cutter.

6.  Make sure that the rounds are coated with flour on the top, bottom and around the edge and set aside until all of the mixture has been formed.   You will need to re-form the fishcake mixture and re-roll as needed.

7.  Once all of the mixture has been formed into cakes, take them one by one, dipping first into the egg and then rolling in the breadcrumbs until all surfaces and edges are covered.  A good way to keep things clean as you panné is to use one hand for the egg dipping and the other hand for the breadcrumbing.  Place the coated fishcakes onto a baking sheet covered with another sheet of greaseproof.  The fishcakes can be made well ahead of cooking and then left in the fridge until needed.

8.  Cook the fishcakes in sunflower oil in large frying pan for about five minutes on each side.  Think shallow frying - the oil should be around half a centimetre deep.  Take care not to crowd the pan by frying the cakes in batches of two or three at a time.  Serve with your choice of salad or chips or both!
Printable version


  1. Arrrrr! Anyone would think I was the pickiest pirate that ever sailed the great saucy seas!

  2. Not a potato fan either, just can't taste the point. Mum and oldest sister used to have mashed potato sandwiches, we thought they were crazy. I'd just sub quinoa for the potato and hope for the best in your recipe for my taste. And I may.

    1. Oh gosh, good luck with that! lol I can't get on with quinoa - have tried and failed. :( It's the little tails that each grain develops that have put me off. It obviously looks odd, to me, although I've never managed to establish what it reminds me of. It's obviously something inedible, though! I know, I'm weird. lol


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