An updated way to serve this British classic, we used to serve up to forty portions a day at the pub which stressed out my busy chefs as there were three to a portion to make! However once made, they are super quick to cook and serve and look fantastic on the plate or in a pasta bowl. If you make the fishcakes smaller they make a great starter or golf ball sized for a light lunch/dinner.
I have not spoken about bread-crumbing yet (or pane in the trade - pronounced pah-nay). Commercial kitchens always have a tray on top of the the oven into which all bread ends are thrown to dry out. These are blitzed to crumb and can be used for all sorts of things like stuffings, herb crusts and pane. Pane protects delicate items during frying that would otherwise fall apart and also gives that delicious crispy coating. When you pane, always dip the items into seasoned flour first, then egg, then breadcrumbs. To get a really uniform professional look make sure your breadcrumbs are very dry and fine - sieve if necessary. You can also go into the egg and breadcrumbs twice called a double-pane but maybe I'm taking things too far now......for four:
Maris piper potatoes - 600g unpeeled
Mixed economical fish like trout, whiting, smoked pollock - 500g
1 small leek, washed and finely chopped
1 small green pepper - deseeded and finely chopped
Celery, 2 stalks finely chopped
Mixed fresh herbs like parsley, dill, tarragon, chives, finely chopped - 50g
Butter - 100g
Milk - 200ml
Eggs - 4 beaten
Flour - 100g
Breadcrumbs - a big bowl full
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
1 onion - finely chopped
Red wine vinegar - 1 tsp
Sugar - 1tsp
Olive Oil - 150ml
Vegetable oil - 100ml
Juice of half a lemon
Capers - 50g
Oil for frying
Watercress to serve
Salt and Pepper
Boil your spuds in their skin until soft; drain, cool, peel and mash. Poach your fish in the milk - covered - until cooked and flaking. Discard all skin and bone, flake the fish in a large bowl and add the chopped herbs and mash. Gently fry the onion, green pepper and leek in the butter until very soft, add to the fish and mash, mix, season and set aside to cool completely. When cool, divide the mix into four then roll three equal golf ball sized fishcakes from each quarter. Set up a little pane section with three bowls, one with seasoned flour, one with egg and the last with breadcrumbs. Flour, egg then crumb each fish cake then chill the lot in the fridge.
Fry the onion and 3 chopped cloves of the garlic in 50ml of olive oil until translucent. Add the tinned tomatoes and blitz with a hand blender or in a liquidizer. Add the red wine vinegar, the sugar and lightly season. Simmer until reduced by a third, add the capers and check the seasoning. Set aside.
In a large bowl add the egg yolk, the lemon juice and the rest of the garlic ground to a puree with the flat of a knife and a little salt on the chopping board. Whisking continuously, drizzle in the remainder of the olive and vegetable oils - a little at a time - making sure each drizzle is fully incorporated before you add more. When all the oil is incorporated, you should be left with a nice thick sauce - check the seasoning and add more lemon if you so wish.
Heat your fryer to 160c (or use a deep pan or wok and heat until a piece of bread turns golden in approx 30 seconds) and fry the fishcakes in two batches until golden - approx 8 mins. Drain and keep warm. Heat your tomato sauce dabbing a little in the bottom of each bowl or plate, top with three fishcakes, watercress and aioli. I promise, this dish is more than the sum of its parts, a brilliant classic.