Fresh fish of any sort is my idea of a fine feast, but often I feel thwarted in my efforts to eat more of it. First, no one in my family really likes fish, unless it’s battered and deep fried. Second, good fresh fish is ruinously expensive in Cape Town, and so is good quality tinned and smoked fish. Third (and this is not a grumble), I no longer buy – or feature on this blog – any threatened or vulnerable species of fish or shellfish, using the SASSI database as my guide.
|Crusty hot fish cakes, lightly spiced with North African flavours, and served with lemon
wedges and a cool yoghurty dipping sauce.
Buying and cooking with sustainable ocean species is rather limiting, and while I’m determined to support SASSI’s initiative, I must admit sorely to missing eating the beautiful, spanking-fresh linefish I enjoyed so much as a child – beautiful, springy, snow-white kabeljou in particular. Prawns drenched in garlic, chilli, lemons and butter are – sob! – another no-no, but more about that in a future blog post.
Snoek, yellowtail, dorado, angelfish and hake are still green-listed, so I buy a side of one of these about once a week. I usually bake or grill the fish, eat some of it for lunch with salad, and then refrigerate the leftovers for making fish cakes the next day. Oddly enough, some members of my family are willing to eat fish cakes, especially if they’re made – as all good homely fish cakes are – with mashed potato.
|A blend of North African flavours gives these fish cakes a lovely flavour.|
Here is my recipe for fish cakes spiced with some fragrant Moroccan flavours.You can add any combination of aromatic ingredients you like, of course, to this very basic formula, but there is something about the warming spices of North Africa that makes these very moreish.
These are quite lightly spiced, because I want the cakes to taste of fish, but feel free to add more heat and perfume if you’d like your fish cakes to pack a punch.
And if you’re in a tearing hurry, please use instant mashed potato. The sky will not fall on your head, and I doubt anyone will notice the difference. If you go this route, however, be sure to make up the instant mash powder with a little less boiling water than is specified on the packet, so it is of the same stiff consistency as proper mash. You can also used tinned butter beans as an alternative to mash – here’s my recipe for easy tuna fish cakes with beans.
Comforting Fish Cakes with Moroccan Flavours
2 cups (500 ml) cooked flaked white fish
olive oil, for frying
a small onion, peeled and very finely chopped
2 tsp (10 ml) crushed fresh garlic
2 tsp (10 ml) finely grated fresh ginger
2 cups (500 ml) mashed potato, at room temperature
1 extra-large free-range egg
½ tsp (2.5 ml) cinnamon
1 tsp (5 ml) finely grated lemon zest
1 tsp (5 ml) ground coriander
1 tsp (5 ml) good quality paprika
2 tsp (10 ml) cumin
4 Tbsp (60 ml) finely chopped fresh parsley
salt and milled black pepper
5 Tbsp (75 ml) flour, for dusting
Heat the oven to 160 ºC. Carefully sift through the flaked fish with your fingertips to remove every small bone, then place the fish in a large mixing bowl.
Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a frying pan over a medium heat and add the onion. Fry for two minutes, until it just begins to soften, and then stir in the garlic and ginger. Cook for another minute, then tip this mixture into the bowl containing the fish. Don’t cook the onion mixture for too long – the onion should retain a slight crunch, and the garlic and ginger should be heated just long enough to remove any raw burniness.
Add all the remaining ingredients apart from the flour and mix well, using your hands. Season to taste with salt and milled black pepper.
|Shape the cakes by rotating them quickly and lightly between the
palms of your hands. It helps to flour your hands!
Pinch off pieces of the mixture – the size is up to you – and roll them into balls. Now flatten the balls and shape them into neat cakes by rotating them between your palms, as shown in the picture, left. It helps to flour your hands while you’re doing this.
Put the flour onto a plate and lightly roll each cake over in the flour. Shake well to remove any excess – they should be lightly dusted.
Heat 3 Tbsp (45 ml) of olive oil in a large frying pan, over a medium-high heat. Fry the cakes on both sides, in batches, placing them in a circle around the edges of the pan, as shown in the picture below. (Arranging the cakes like this allow you to flip them over in the order in which they were placed in the pan.)
|Always fry small cakes in a circle, so you can flip them over in the
order in which you put them in the pan
They are ready to flip over when the underside is golden brown and crusty. Place the cooked fish cakes in the oven to heat right through while you fry the rest.
Serve hot with lemon wedges or chopped preserved lemons, and a dipping sauce of your choice.
Makes about 30 small fish cakes, or 15 bigger ones.