I learnt this recipe from my friend Santos, who comes from Brazil where they make little fritters of this recipe and deep-fry them – more like glorified canapés than fishcakes really. I’ve adapted his recipe slightly to make actual fishcakes – probably the nicest I’ve tasted! In Brazil they’re called "bolinho de bacalhau" and are made with salt cod, which is a wonderful fish to use if you can get hold of it. However, for this recipe I’ve simply used flaked white fish. Quite a few cookbooks have recipes for fishcakes these days, but they all seem to be Thai-influenced, with overly clever and complicated seasonings or dips. The nice thing about this one is that you can taste the potatoes and fish alongside the heat of the chilli and the zing of the lemons and limes. It works a treat.
PS: My sister wanted to know if these fishcakes could be pan-fried instead of deep-fried. The answer is yes they can be but you will need to control the temperature. For fishcakes that are ¾ inch thick they will need about 2 ½ minutes on each side.
Yield: MAKES LOTS!
1kg/ 2lb 3oz haddock fillets, skin on, scaled and pinboned
140ml/ ¼ pint milk
2 bay leaves
1kg/2lb 3oz potatoes, peeled and diced
A big bunch of fresh flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
A handful of fresh mint, finely chopped
Zest of 2 lemons and 2 limes
1 teaspoon fennel seeds, bashed
1 fresh red chilli, finely chopped
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
115g/4oz plain flour
Sunflower oil, for deep-frying
Lemons, to serve
Preheat the oven to 190°C/375°F/gas 5. Place the haddock in a deep baking tray with the milk and bay leaves, then cover the tray with foil and cook for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, cook the potatoes in salted boiling water for about 15 minutes, until soft. Drain them in a colander to get rid of any excess water, then return to the pan on a low heat and mash.
Flake the cooked fish into a large bowl, picking out any bones and removing the skin. Add the mashed potato, parsley, mint, lemon and lime zest, fennel seeds, eggs and chilli and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Mix well, taste and add more salt if necessary.
Flour your work surface, then take 1 tablespoon of the mix in your hands with a little flour and pat it into a flattened circle, rolling it in the flour. Rough and ready is good, so don’t worry about having them all exactly the same!
Pour enough oil into a large heavy-bottomed saucepan to fill the pan about a third of the way up. Heat over a medium heat until a deep-frying thermometer inserted into the oil reaches 185°C/360°F. (If you don’t have a thermometer, heat the oil until a cube of bread will brown in about 3 minutes.) Deep-fry the fishcakes for about 5 minutes until brown and crispy. Drain on kitchen paper, sprinkle with sea salt and serve on a large plate with lots of lemon halves.