Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Fishcakes and jumping beans

OK so we made fishcakes this evening and I feel pretty smug about it. Of course it would help if I could be a LOT more go-with-the-flow and relaxed about the gobs of mixture melting into the egg and curb my impulse to tut at the children when they don’t come up with perfectly shaped, compacted, neat little discs. But after some deep-breathing exercises I think these turned out pretty well, and – this is actually the terrific part – both kids loved them. Of course, they’re fish cakes. What’s not to like?* But, still, the fact that they participated in the creation of a (I think) pretty healthy meal that they both enjoyed? Like I say, smug.

And the amazing kicker is that (whisper it) another vegetable may have been added to Gorgeous Boy’s very short list (I disclose this in the full knowledge that he will probably turn them down next time): green beans. Beautiful Girl was being a superstar and playing Charlie to GB's Lola. For every bean he ate she persuaded him he could jump even higher. Much jumping. Lots of laughter. 

For acts of heroic new-food-trying and brother-persuading, not to mention actually helping out with dinner: Special Treats for pudding.


Serves 4

1 medium-sized sweet potato, peeled
4 medium-sized Maris Pipers, peeled
around 300g fish; I used half salmon and half smoked haddock
250ml milk
bay leaf
3 tbsp plain flour
2 eggs, beaten
Several handfuls fresh, wholemeal breadcrumbs (when I realise a sliced loaf is about to go mouldy, if I get to it in time, I shove it in the freezer instead and periodically blitz up all the random bags of bread into breadcrumbs, using a food processor)
Olive oil, to fry

Cut the potatoes into similar-sized pieces, place in a saucepan covered with cold water. Place the lid on the pan, bring to the boil and simmer until tender, about 15 minutes. Meanwhile, place the fish in a shallow, lidded sauté pan with the milk and bayleaf. Bring to a boil then turn down to a very low simmer until the fish is just firm and opaque, about 5 minutes, depending on thickness. At this point, remove the fish from the pan and flake into a bowl, reserving the liquid.

Drain the potatoes then mash thoroughly. This combination of sweet and ‘regular’ potatoes should produce a fairly loose mixture, but if it is too stiff, add some of the reserved poaching milk from the fish. Combine with the fish, judiciously. You may not need all of the potato mixture. Taste periodically to make sure the fish/potato balance is right. Season, being careful with the salt if you’ve used much smoked fish.

All this judiciousness should mean the mixture is reasonably cool by now. Good. Have the beaten eggs, flour and breadcrumbs set out on different plates. Take handful of fish/potato mixture and shape it, using the other hand, into a fat disc.  Dip each one first in the flour, then the egg, then the breadcrumbs, insuring both sides get covered every time. Set them on a plate and refrigerate until you’re ready to cook (or, you can freeze them at this point, see below).

Heat a glug of oil in a frying pan and slide the fishcakes in to the hot oil gingerly. Don’t overcrowd the pan, or you won’t be able to turn them without them breaking apart. Alternatively you can put them on an oiled, pre-heated baking tray in a hot oven for 7 minutes or so each side. When they’re nice and crisp and golden brown on both sides, serve with jumping beans.

Family friendliness rating: I think pretty high. Try mixing different kinds of fish. I think my kids particularly enjoy smoked fish, but I mitigate the saltiness with some regular, unsmoked fish (and of course responsibly-farmed salmon is a good option for getting in some extra Omega 3s).

Cleanup rating: A complete and utter bl**dy nightmare. Seriously. Two pans for cooking the components, plus another different type of pan for frying. Then, for assembly, plates for flour and breadcrumbs, a bowl for the eggs plus (possibly multiple) plates for putting the actual assembled fishcakes on. Breadcrumbs, flour and splodges of fish mix everywhere, including the taps in the downstairs loo. I considered placing a warning at the top of the post, but then I remembered the omega 3 and the participation and all the jumping…

Can I freeze it? YES! Freeze uncooked fishcakes on baking trays in the freezer then transfer to bags when they’re solid. Leave to defrost in the refrigerator for several hours before you intend to cook them. This is a good recipe to double up and freeze.

*Although I think that about most of the meals I come up with.

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