I nearly tore my hair out the other day, trying to find some Atlantic fish or fish that was farmed on the US east coast. In the end I resorted to buying Chilean-farmed salmon which worked pretty well in this recipe. At least that’s in the South Pacific and far away from Japan’s east coast – but I’d have loved to have got my hands on some fresh Atlantic cod or haddock.
Why am I being so picky? You might well ask and here’s why; every single variety of frozen fish I found in the supermarket labeled ‘Wild Caught’, states in teeny tiny print on the back, ‘A Product of China’. What?!? The US doesn’t fish anymore?
The alternatives were no better – ‘Farm-raised in Somewhere, Indonesia’. All a bit depressing but now that I’m the owner of a Russian-made, pocket SOEKS Geiger counter, I’m able to steer clear of anything Pacific-caught that potentially glows in the dark with unacceptable levels of radiation.
You can make these wonderful little fishcakes as hot and spicy as you like by increasing or decreasing the amount of chili. Brits have the edge with their access to fresh haddock (my preference), although thawed frozen fish fillets work very well in fishcakes and I think they’d also be great made with lump crabmeat – the rest of us will have to make do with what’s available.
They’re versatile so you might want to double the quantity and freeze them. They make a great appetizer or hors d’oeuvre (in which case, make them smaller and stab them with a cocktail stick). I like to serve them with a creamy yoghurt-based, fresh mint and cilantro relish that also happens to go very well with many Indian inspired dishes.
Finally, if you can’t find certain spices in your local supermarket and you don’t have an Indian/Asian food emporium nearby; ‘A1 Spice World’ is excellent for mail order.
HOT & SPICY FISHCAKES
(Serves 4 as a main course)
4 oz (110g) of slightly stale white bread
1 lb (450g) fillet of haddock or cod (or similar) skinned and cut into chunks
½ oz (15g) of fresh cilantro (coriander), chopped
Sea salt to taste (approx 1 teaspoon)
2 tablespoons (30ml) of oil suitable for high-temp cooking (I use avocado or grape-seed)
1 medium sized yellow onion, finely chopped
2 teaspoons of freshly grated ginger
2 teaspoons of crushed garlic
1-2 fresh chilies (I like Serrano) seeds removed and chopped
1 teaspoon of ground up anise seed (ajowain)
1/2 -1 teaspoon of chili powder (adjust to taste)
1/2 teaspoon of Garam Masala
¼ teaspoon of turmeric
A little gram (garbanzo/chickpea) flour or coconut flour to lightly dust the fishcakes in before frying
Extra high-temp oil for frying
Soak the stale bread in cold water for a minute then squeeze out the water and put the bread in a food processor along with the chunks of fish, cilantro (coriander), egg and sea salt. Pulse until smooth and transfer to a large bowl – set it aside.
Heat the oil in a large wide sauté pan and once it’s hot, stir fry the onion, garlic and ginger for about 4 minutes until soft but don’t let the onion brown.
Add the chopped green chilies, ground anise, chili powder, turmeric and garam masala and stir fry for another 2 minutes. Take off the heat and cool. Once it’s cool, add it to the fish mixture, stir thoroughly then cover and chill for a minimum of 2 hrs or overnight.
When you’re ready to cook them, divide the mixture into four (if serving as a main course) and shape into 5 fishcakes, making a total of 20. Make them half that size (40) if serving as an appetizer/hors d’oeuvre.
Dust them with a little gram or coconut flour.
In a wide, deep pan, heat up the oil over a medium heat until it’s smoking hot. You want enough oil to half cover each fishcake. Fry them for 6-8 minutes turning once, until they’re evenly browned on both sides.
Drain them on kitchen paper and serve right away.
(Based on a Madhur Jaffrey recipe)