This week has not been the most productive. It’s mainly involved me feeling sorry for myself on the sofa wrapped in a rug chugging back the paracetamol whilst constantly being tossed onto the floor by a particularly space hogging puppy.
I have been seeking my creature comforts this week and today seemed an especially appropriate day to wake up an old timey recipe from hibernation. My Nan’s fishcakes. She was absolutely famous for them in our family. Now, my Nan wasn’t a great cook, she was very much a child of rations, plain food and making do, but there are a few things in her repertoire which I still make as an adult and get such a childish pleasure from. Her trifle was in a class of its own, made from Bird’s custard, tinned fruit puree and a packet of sponge fingers, but it couldn’t be bettered. Her beef stew consisted of beef simply stewed with potato and carrots until it had boiled down to almost a thickened soup, but its comfort factor cannot be surpassed. It was her salmon fishcakes though which we have always considered her culinary masterpiece.
When we needed a bit of cheering up, perhaps we’d had a long week at school, it would perk us up no end when we’d get home from school on a Saturday lunchtime (yes, we went to school on Saturdays, don’t ask) and Mum would say that Nan had made us some fishcakes for a treat. There was no better reward for double maths, double chemistry on a Saturday (seriously that was the lesson plan, sadists ran our school) and we could easily eat the whole plateful she had made us to last the weekend in a single sitting.
These are probably the most simple salmon fishcakes you will come across and they have a very special and secret ingredient, tinned salmon. When I first found out that was how she made them I was horrified. It just seemed so wrong. But really the taste is unique, and despite how much I love a good fresh salmon fishcake, these ones are imbued with a more intensely sweet flavour which is entirely different. And to be honest, there isn’t a whole lot of salmon in these anyway. These fishcakes are more like mashed potato cakes kissed with a sweet blush of salmon. However that salmon flavour perfumes the whole cake.
When I asked Nan once how she made them she just said mashed potato and tinned salmon. That was her recipe. Now, I’ve taken a liberty or two with my Nan’s recipe as I have added a few snipped chives, just because I couldn’t resist. I also included a generous amount of ground white pepper for a bit more of a kick and salt, which I know Nan definitely wouldn’t have used. She didn’t really buy into seasoning.
The way to serve Nan’s fishcakes is and always will be non-negotiable, with HP sauce. It is in fact the only time I will ever eat HP sauce as if I’m pressed I’m not sure I really like it. However, here, when the crunchy crumbed shell which encases the sweetly soft interior is paired with the deep tang of the brown sauce, the result is sublime and the only thing in the whole world I feel like eating at the moment.
My Nan’s Salmon Fishcakes
Makes about 6
100g salted butter, at room temperature
¼ teaspoon ground white pepper
1 x 170g tin wild skinless and boneless red salmon
1 tablespoon of snipped chives
1 egg, lightly beaten
85g breadcrumbs (panko breadcrumbs or gf if you like)
50g flour (plain or gf)
3-4 tablespoons olive oil
- Peel and quarter the potatoes then place in a large pan of salted boiling water.
- Bring the potatoes back to the boil then simmer for 25 minutes until the potatoes are soft.
- Drain the potatoes, then add them back into the pan with the butter. Add the white pepper then mash until the potato is incredibly smooth.
- Tip the potato into a bowl then cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours until the potato is cold.
- Drain the salmon and mix with the cold potato and the chives, until evenly dispersed.
- Shape the potato and fish mixture into patties of equal weight, about 125g, then place on a plate and put back in the fridge to settle for half an hour.
- Separate the flour, egg and breadcrumbs into separate bowls, then remove the fishcakes from the fridge and coat each fishcake; first with the flour, then with the egg, then the breadcrumbs.
- Heat a very wide heavy based saucepan and drop in 2 tablespoons of the oil until warm.
- With the heat on low, shallow fry the fishcakes in batches, 7 minutes on each side, then place on kitchen towel to drain.
- Replenish the pan with another tablespoon of oil after each batch has finished cooking.
- Serve the fishcakes with a light salad and plenty of brown sauce.
- These fishcakes freeze very well so make a huge stash for emergencies.