Prepare yourselves… this recipe gets a little bit cheffy. We know our usual style is bang it all in a roasting dish and then, 1 hour later, dish yourself up a plate of goodness but sometimes you want to fancy things up a bit. This makes a lovely smaller dinner for two, or would make a beautiful starter if you only served 1 fishcake per person. The fishcakes themselves are a straight steal from Nigel Slater but we’ve gone and done one better (sorry Nige!) and created a beautiful smoky white sauce to serve with them. So next time you have a certain someone to impress, or just fancy gettin’ cheffy with it give these a go!
- 400g floury white potatoes (about 1 large potato)
- 400g leeks, finely sliced
- 3 tbsp butter
- 300g undyed smoked haddock fillet
- 250ml milk
- 2 bay leaves
- 5-6 peppercorns
- Olive oil
- 2 tbsp plain flour
- Wilted spinach to serve
Cut the potato into chunks and cook in boiling water for around 10-15 minutes or until soft. Heat 1 tsp of the butter in a frying pan and add the leeks, slowly sweat down and cook until really soft and sweet. Once the potato is cooked drain it and then place in a bowl to cool for a few minutes. Bring the milk to the point of steaming in a small pan with the bay leaves and the peppercorns and then add the smoked haddock, cut it into several pieces to make sure it fits in and is covered by the milk. Place a lid on this, let the milk come to the boil and then turn the heat off and let it sit for 10 minutes, the haddock will be perfectly cooked and flaky at this point.Take the haddock out and leave until cool enough to handle on a board. Do not throw away the milk. This is where we and Nigel part ways, he makes no mention of the milk but we thought we couldn’t throw away this little goldmine of flavour so hang on to it, you’ll need it later. Strain it into a jug to remove the bay leaves, peppercorn and any little flakes of fish that have escaped.
Crush the slightly cooled potatoes with a fork until there are no large lumps remaining but don’t worry about getting them perfectly smooth, these fishcakes are rustic and rough textured. Mix in half of the leeks and flake the fish in, discarding the skin. Shape into patties (we did 4 but you could make them smaller or bigger as you like) and set aside.
Heat most of the remaining butter (about 2 tbsp) in the pan you cooked the fish in (give it a quick wipe with a bit of kitchen roll) and once bubbling add an equal amount of plain flour to create a roux. Cook this for a couple of minutes to get rid of the floury taste and then start to add the milk that you saved earlier. Add this bit by bit, whisking well in between until all of it has been added. Keep this over a low heat stirring regularly to thicken.
Now just fry your fishcakes – everything in them is already cooked so they just need a bit of colour on the outside. Heat the remaining butter with a drizzle of olive oil in a frying pan (we used the one we used to cook the leeks earlier to save on washing up!) and when hot add the fishcakes. They will take a couple of minutes on each side over a medium heat. Try not to mess around with them and turn them too much, they are fairly fragile so avoid flipping them as much as possible.
Once they are golden pop a bit of wilted spinach on a plate and top with the remaining leeks and a dollop of the thickened white sauce. Place your fishcakes on and drizzle over the rest of the sauce. Serve with a glass of white wine and Instagram your cheffy creation!