Smoked Haddock Fish Cakes with
the Best in the World Home-made Tartar Sauce:
These fish cakes are irresistible. The combination of smoky haddock, creamy béchamel and the crunchy coating creates all the textures and flavours in a fish cake that one would ever want. Topped off with the best tartar sauce you’ll ever taste and you have a meal that will make you cry, scream, jump around, skip, dance, do the splits or whatever you do when you taste something truly deliciously satisfying. I like to do all of the above (save the splits, still recovering from the last splits attempt).
I call these little tasty-crunchy-fishy-cakes “Harvey Nicks Fish Cakes” because when I waitressing was working as a chef in London the head chef , who once worked in a restaurant in Harvey Nichols and who got this here fab recipe from said restaurant, showed me the recipe. They used to cook them all the time – they went down like a treat in the restaurant.
The only thing I have changed about the recipe is that I add a little bit of Parmesan cheese to the béchamel sauce. The head chef, who came from a French training background, thought it was sacrilegious to add cheese in a meal that contained fish. She was super hectic about this, however, being the kind of daring person that I am, I sneak in a bit of Parmesan. I think it adds a nice tang. So if you are a pious French cook, leave the cheese out; if you’re like me (brave and stuff) – take a trip on the wild side of life, let your hair down and add in some cheese.
There are a couple of things that makes these fish cakes winners:
Firstly, the milk that you poach the fish in is the liquid you use to make the béchamel – good idea, hey? So you get all that lovely smoky fish flavour in your béchamel, plus you add a few things like onion, garlic and pepper to the the milk as well – this infuses the milk with a subtle onion and garlic flavour.
Secondly, the fish (once) poached is flaked into large chunks – this adds great texture to the fish cakes. I hate fish cake that use ground up fish, I never know what I’m eating (fish bones, skin, guts, eyeballs, gut… etc) and the texture is dry and almost sandy.
Thirdly, the potato (like the fish) must remain chunky and quite dry. This too adds texture. The creamy, silky texture will be provided by the béchamel. The chunks of fish and potato contrast beautifully with the creamy béchamell – so keep the texture of the fish and potato.
Lastly, for the tartar sauce to be the best in the world you have to make it from scratch. Store-bought mayonnaise wont cut it. If you have a hand-mixer, mayonnaise becomes the easiest and most rewarding thing to make. Serving home-made mayonnaise is such an impressive treat (well, I think so anyway)
Makes 14 (small-medium sized fish cakes) – as in the photos.
350g smoked haddock fillets
2 cups of milk
½ onion cut into quarters.
5 whole pepper corns
few sprigs of chives
2 cloves of garlic, smashed slightly (not chopped)
4 tbls butter
4 tbls flour
the milk that you poached the fish in (2 cups)
¼ cup parmesan cheese
½ onion, chopped finely
1 clove garlic, chopped finely
salt and pepper, to taste
poached haddock fillets.
2tbls chopped chives
1 cup of seasoned dry fine breadcrumbs ( I used half bread and half panko)
2 eggs, lightly beaten
seasoned flour, for coating
oil for deep frying
To poach the fish, place the milk, onion, pepper corns, chives, garlic and fish in a saucepan and simmer for 5-7 minutes or until the fish has turned opaque and is nice and flaky.
Strain the fish over a bowl and set the poaching liquid aside – do not throw it away, you are going to use it for the bechamel sauce in a moment. Remove the fish and toss the onion, garlic, pepper corns and chives away (you don’t need them anymore, they were there simply to infuse the milk).
Remove the skin of the fish and flake your fish into big chunks. Fish cakes are far nicer when you can see chunks of fish as opposed to ones that have ground up fish. Plus, the pieces of fish adds great texture. Make sure to remove any bones that might be in the fish.
Set flaked fish aside.
In the meantime, place your potatoes in a pot and boil them till they are tender (about 10-15mins). Do not over-boil them as they will get too wet and make your fish cakes gluey.
While your potatoes are boiling, prepare the béchamel sauce. Melt the butter in a a saucepan over a medium heat, then add the flour and stir for about 3 minutes. Gradually add the poaching liquid (the milk you set aside) making sure to whisk at all times. Keep whisking till all the poaching liquid is incorporated. Stir the sauce over a low heat for 5-7 minutes, then add the parmesan cheese, cook for a further minute, or until the cheese is incorporated.
Once your potatoes are boiled, mash them lightly with a fork or masher. Do not mash too smooth, you wan it to be chunky – the chunkiness adds texture.
Fry the chopped onion and garlic and add it to the béchamel sauce.
Assemble the Fish Cake Mixture:
In a bowl combine the mashed potatoes, flaked fish, béchamel and the chopped chives. Mix, be careful not to over-mix – you don’t want the mixture to get glue. Taste, and add salt and pepper if needed.
Set fish cake mixture in the fridge to firm up about 2 hours, or until completely cold and firm.
Divide the mixture into 14 small-ish patties. Lightly coat the fish cakes in the flour, dip them in the beaten egg, then coat them in the breadcrumbs.
Pop them in the fridge until you are ready to cook them.
Deep fry the fishcakes in batches for about 2-3 minutes. The oil should be around 180 degrees Celsius.
The World’s best Tartar sauce:
2 egg yolks
1 tsp dijon mustard
1stp white wine vinegar
300ml canola oil (vegetable is fine)
salt and pepper
a handful green olives and with pimento peppers, chopped
1-2 gherkins, chopped
1 tbls chopped capers
1 tbls chopped parsley.
Put the egg yolks, wine vinegar, salt pepper to taste, and mustard into a bowl. Stand the bowl on a damp cloth to hold it steady. Using a balloon whisk or an electric hand-mixer, beat well until smooth and creamy. Now trickle in a few drops of oil while constantly whisking.
Continue to whisk in the oil drop by drop at first, then slowly increase the amount you add to a slow stream. Making sure each addition is well incorporated before you add any more. This way you will achieve a thick mayonnaise.
Finally, add the juice of half a lemon.
To the mayonnaise, the chopped, olives, gherkins, capers and parsley, taste and add seasoning if needed. Also add more chopped gherkins, olives or capers depending on if you like it saltier or more tangy.
Serve with fish cakes and a side green salad.