Ling and horseradish fishcakes

Fish cakes make a quick, tasty family dinner.
Fish cakes make a quick, tasty family dinner. Photo: Marcel Aucar

When I have only enough fish for two but there's a hungry family waiting for dinner, it's time to make fish cakes. There are so many variations of this simple, rustic dish. But my trusty old favourite is based on potato with beautifully poached fish and vibrant green herbs. After making it a couple of times, it's an easy dinner to whip up. You can also shape the cakes and store them in the fridge for a couple of days before cooking.

Ingredients

*450g ling, skinned   

2 bay leaves

150ml milk

150ml water

400g desiree potatoes, peeled and chopped

1/2 tsp lemon zest, finely grated 

1 tbsp horseradish, grated

1 tbsp flat-leaf parsley, chopped

1 tbsp chives, snipped 

salt and pepper

1 egg, beaten

flour, for shaping

85g fresh white breadcrumbs, preferably a day or two old

3-4 tbsp vegetable or sunflower oil, for shallow frying

To serve:

spicy tartare sauce, lemon wedges and rocket (use normal tartare sauce if you don't have time to make spicy tartare)

* The fish and flavourings can be changed to whatever takes your fancy - it could be salmon with whole grain mustard, or snapper with green chilli and coriander.

Method

1. Put the fish and bay leaves in a pan. Pour over the milk and water. Cover, bring to the boil, then lower heat and simmer for four minutes. Remove from heat and stand, covered, for 10 minutes to gently finish cooking the fish.

2. Put the potatoes in a saucepan and just cover with water. Bring to the boil and simmer until tender, but not too soft. Lift the fish out of the milk with a slotted spoon and put it on a plate to cool. Drain the potatoes in a colander and leave for a minute or two. Tip them back into the hot pan on the lowest heat possible and let them dry out for one minute, then mash them, stirring so they don't stick. You should have a light, dry fluffy mash.

3. Take off the heat and mix in the lemon zest, horseradish, parsley and chives. Season well. Drain any liquid from the fish, then flake it into big chunks into the pan of potatoes. Using your hands, gently mix the fish and potatoes; you'll only need a couple of turns, or the fish will break up too much. Put to one side and cool.

4. Pour the beaten egg mix onto a large plate, lightly flour a board and spread the breadcrumbs on a baking sheet. Divide the fish cake mixture into eight. On the floured board, and with floured hands, carefully shape it into eight cakes, about 2 1/2 centimetres  thick. One by one, sit each cake in the egg, and brush over the top and sides so it is completely coated. Sit the cakes on the crumbs, patting the crumbs over the sides and tops so they are lightly covered.

5. Transfer to a plate, cover and chill for 30 minutes (or up to a day ahead).

6. Heat the oil in a large frying pan on a medium heat. To test whether it's hot enough, drop in some breadcrumbs - they should sizzle and quickly turn golden-brown. Fry the fish cakes for about five minutes on each side or until crisp and golden.

7. Serve with tartare sauce and lemon wedges for squeezing over and rocket.