We all know that fish is good for us, but any parent will tell you that such a logical argument is unlikely to induce a picky child to eat it! These fish cakes are a great way to introduce fish to reluctant fish eaters. They are admittedly a bit of a faff to make but their saving grace is that they can be prepared ahead of time. Conveniently combining fish and potatoes, they are also freezable and are therefore perfect to have at hand for a quick and easy supper.
I generally use cod in this recipe but you could use any white fish. In a bid to persuade my daughter to eat oily fish, I've tried making these fish cakes with half cod and half salmon and I think that combination is pretty tasty. (My daughter rumbled me but still ate a fair amount so I am undeterred!) Of course, some kids will object to 'the bits' (parsley) but you could simply leave that out.
Classic fish cakesMakes 12 fish cakes
500g skinless, boneless cod fillets
500g potatoes (peeled weight), cut into large chunks
2 tbsp chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley (optional)
40g plain flour
2 eggs, beaten
85g dried natural breadcrumbs or panko
3 tbsp vegetable oil
Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4.
Finely grate the rind of the lemon and set aside. Place the cod fillets in a large ceramic baking dish and squeeze over the juice from the lemon. Cover the baking dish with foil, transfer to the preheated oven and bake for 15–20 minutes, or until the fish is cooked through and flakes easily. Allow to cool slightly, then flake the fish into a large mixing bowl, keeping the chunks nice and big.
Meanwhile, cook the potatoes in a saucepan of lightly salted boiling water for 20 minutes, or until tender. Drain and mash thoroughly (this is the one occasion I dust down my potato rice), then add to the fish in the mixing bowl.
Add the reserved grated lemon rind, the parsley and freshly grated pepper to taste. Stir gently to combine the ingredients; do not mix too vigorously because you don't want to break down the fish chunks. Cover the bowl and transfer to the fridge to chill before you shape it into fish cakes - 15 minutes will do but you can leave it longer (even overnight) if you prefer.
When you're ready to shape the fish cakes, place the flour, eggs and breadcrumbs into separate shallow dishes. Line a large baking tray with a baking paper.
Remove the fish mixture from the fridge and divide into 12 equal portions. I do this by packing a 1/3-cup measuring cup with the mixture (don't worry - it easily pops out again when held upside down and given a sharp tap on the base). Form each portion into a patty shape (approximately 2.5 cm thick) and roll it in the flour, then place it on the prepared baking tray. Finally, roll each patty first in the egg and then in the breadcrumbs to cover it completely and return to the baking tray. At this stage, it is a good idea to chill the fish cakes for at least 10 minutes because this will help them keep their shape when cooking.
Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil over a medium heat in a large frying pan. Add half the fishcakes and fry on one side for 3–4 minutes, or until sealed and golden brown. Flip over the fish cakes and cook for a further 3–4 minutes on the other side. Finally, turn the fishcakes on their sides to brown the edges, giving them a 60 degree turn every minute or so and continuing until browned all the way around. Keep the fish cakes warm in a low oven whilst you fry the rest using the remaining tablespoon of oil.
Serve the fishcakes with vegetables and a dipping sauce of your choice.
- I've tried making these using fish from the freezer aisle in the supermarket but it was an abject failure - they were too watery and it resulted in a mixture that was a sticky mess! Therefore, I'd advise saving the frozen fish for fish pie or curry and using fresh fish for these fish cakes.
- I'm a big fan of panko (Japanese-style breadcrumbs) for a crunchy topping on things like pasta bakes but prefer the finer texture of traditional dried breadcrumbs for fish cakes. Either will work fine though.
- Breadcrumbing (or panéing) can generate a lot of mess. I tend to coat all the fish cakes in the flour first, then one by one roll them in the egg and breadcrumbs, using one hand for the egg and the other for the breadcrumbs. It saves me from breadcrumbing my fingers!
- If you want to freeze the fish cakes, do so before frying them. Open-freeze on the baking tray, then wrap individually in clingfilm and pack into a freezerproof container. Defrost fully before frying.
- This recipe yields 12 equal-sized fish cakes but you may prefer to make smaller fish cakes for the kids and/or larger ones for adults. If so, bear in mind that you will need to adjust the quantities of flour and breadcrumbs accordingly.