My first job, aged 15 or 16, was washing pots in ‘Thorins Wine Bar & Brasserie”. I’d make £16 a week for the Saturday lunch session. One Saturday morning I knocked on the fire door, said “I’m Tom’s sister – he’s not doing this any more”. Barry, the head chef, shrugged and let me in. It was a small kitchen, just two chefs and me.
I loved it – hot and dirty work, scrubbing pots and heaving trays of dishes in and out of the industrial dishwasher. The labour of it appealed to me, much more than working in a shop (note: I never got the shop jobs I applied for. Ever. Only ever cafe and restaurant jobs).
After a few months, my responsibilities seemed to increase. I was learning how to use the giant food mill to make finely milled potatoes. Adding poached salmon, herbs, anchovy essence and seasoning. And, how to shape a fishcake with my hands: using a cutter created waste.
Restaurants work on fine profit lines, and they can’t afford to waste 20% of fishcake mix. So I learnt to pat and roll out the mixture, cut it into squares that you smooth and shape into circles with your hands.
After he taught me this, Barry would enjoy a tea, a fag and the Sun, as he sat in the staff ‘room’ (cupboard). And I was making the fishcakes. Which was his job. So, yes, he was canny and I was naive. But I’ye never used a cutter to make a scone or fishcake since. Okay, maybe you’ve never made a fishcake – great! But, maybe now is the time to start. They are cheap, good for you, comforting and delicious.
Fishfingers – okay they’re hardly poached salmon. But don’t let that stop you. The crunchy breadcrumbs work well in the fishcakes, and adding more breadcrumbs on the outside of your fishcake adds to the deliciousness.
If you’ve not made fishcakes before don’t be intimidated. Just divide the mixture into 6/8 pieces and roll each chunk into a ball. Gently press on the ball with your hand to make it flat. That’s it. That’s all Barry taught me to do. And they won’t be perfect, but they don’t have to be. This is supper at home not afternoon tea at the Ritz. Egg and bread and enjoy! Just don’t burn your tongue like I did..
Crunchy fish cakes
Makes between 6 & 8
400g raw potates/350g cooked
150g cold breaded fish/fishfingers
Salt & pepper
75g plain white flour
Pinch smoked paprika/ras al hanout
Plenty of oil for frying
Large mixing bowl
3 smaller bowls
20m – 60m prep*
30m cooking time (depending on how many you’re making…)
* 20m with cooked potatoes, 60m if boiling from raw
Simple if this isn’t a new technique; tricky if it’s new, give yourself time and headspace with the shaping, and egg and breading – there are a lot of steps but they get easier with practise!
If starting with raw potatoes, peel and boil/steam/microwave until they are soft through
Mash the potatoes well with a masher or fork, and season well with salt and pepper
Lay out the three smaller bowls
In the first, add you flour, the second your eggs and third your breadcrumbs
Season the flour and the breadcrumbs; if using, add the spice to the breadcrumbs
Whisk the egg
Break the fish into 1 inch/2cm pieces
Place oven to 100C
Add the fish to your mashed potatoes and mix through
Take a handful of mixture and roll it into a ball. Do that until you have between 6 & 8 fish cakes
Flatten each fishcake with the flat palm of your hand and is about 2cm thick
Take one fishcake and place it in the flour. Using your right hand, make sure it’s entirely covered
Place in the egg. Using your left hand, cover it in egg. Using your left hand still pop the fish into the bowl with the breadcrumbs
Using your right hand, press the fishcake into the breadcrumbs so it has a nice crunchy covering and is a little flattened
Still using your right hand, place the fishcake onto the waiting plate. Repeat until they are all covered
Place enough oil to cover about 2mm in your frying pan and turn the heat to medium
Pop a little leftover lump of breadcrumbs into the pan; when they sizzle, you’re ready
Place 2 or 3 fishcakes in the pan and cook until golden (about 7 mins)
Once golden flip and repeat
Keep the waiting cakes warm into the warm oven
Serve with veg/beans
Got a question? Ingredient you need help with? Get in touch: