Fish Cakes

They are so tempting! The crunchy crust, the flaky texture and the flavour, especially when combined with mayonnaise and lemon. When we see them at the supermarket or at the fishmonger, we can’t always resist buying them. But we should resist the temptation because most fish cakes should be called salty potato cakes. Hardly any fish, limited herbs, the structure of mashed potato and lots of salt to disguise the lack of real flavour.

It’s not a lot of work to prepare your own fish cakes, so be brave and ignore the factory-made ones. The recipe is very flexible, you could make a Thai version (Tod Mun Pla) with lemon grass, red curry, onions and garlic, a traditional version with stockfish, or cakes with salmon, with shrimps etcetera. To be served with Tartar sauce, sweet chili sauce, dill sauce or perhaps hoisin. We prefer Jean Beddington‘s fish cakes (served with a beetroot chutney) or a more traditional version that focuses on the fish, with herbs and black pepper in a supporting role, breaded with our home-made breadcrumbs.

Wine Pairing

Let’s be flexible, a nice glass of beer or a not too complex white wine, it’s all fine. The salad, its dressing and the lemon will be rather present. Perhaps a Verdejo, Pinot Blanc or a Picpoul de Pinet?

What You Need

  • For the Cakes
    • 225 grams of Haddock
    • 100 grams of Potato
    • 1 egg yolk
    • Parsley
    • Chives
    • Black Pepper
    • Butter
  • 1 Egg
  • Breadcrumbs
  • Olive Oil and Butter
  • Salad with a dressing made of Olive Oil and White Wine Vinegar
  • Mayonnaise
  • Lemon

What You Do

It’s best to make the mixture one day ahead. This allows for the flavours to integrate.
Gently fry the haddock in butter. You’re looking for a light golden color, just to give it some extra flavour. When nearly done, transfer to a plate and let cool. Cook the potato until soft. Let cool. Use a fish knive to make fish flakes. Use a fork to mash the potato. Chop lots of parsley and chives. Combine fish (and its juices), potato, egg yolk, herbs and a generous amount of black pepper. Let cool and store in the refrigerator until the next day.
Beat the egg, add a few drops of lemon to the mayonnaise and heat a heavy iron skillet or a non-stick pan. Make 4 fish cakes. Coat them with egg, then cover with breadcrumbs and fry in butter and/or olive oil on all sides. In total 6-10 minutes. Serve with a salad, mayonnaise and a wedge of lemon.

PS

Making your own breadcrumbs is simple and worthwhile. The breadcrumbs at the supermarket are made of cardboard; yet another product you shouldn’t buy. Toast slices of old bread and let cool. Cut in smaller bits and then use a cutter or blender to make the crumbs. Done. They keep very well in the freezer.

Fish Cakes by Jean Beddington

Jean Beddington: a culinary, passionate creative! She was chef at five restaurants, owned her own successful restaurant, and still is an inspiration to many. One of her motto’s is ‘seemingly simple’, not with the intention to impress but with the intention to surprise and enhance the sensation when enjoying her food and the way it is presented.

Background

In her book Absolutely Jean Beddington she writes about her background, her youth in England, her eagerness to cook, the holidays with her father when they would stay at budget hotels and eat at Michelin Star restaurants, her travels, her years in Japan and her education (she studied Arts and Chemistry). When she moved to the Netherlands, she decided to become a chef, which is the obvious choice for someone with such a talent. She was one of the first to bring new ingredients to the classic French cuisine. For instance, she began using cilantro and yuzu. She was also inspired by the Japanese way of presenting food: beautifully designed and served on a variety of plates. She began doing this when most guests still expected bread and garlic butter at the beginning of their lunch or dinner.

Books

She published several books. One is dedicated to stock: the basis of soups, sauces and dishes. She explains how to make stock and how to create delicious food, for instance green vegetables in stock with couscous, yogurt and harissa sauce. 

Her book Absolutely Jean Beddington is very dear to us. It has three main chapters: the first one is called Glossy with beautifully presented food, the second one is called Real Time with food as you could expect to eat at her restaurant (which is closed, unfortunately) and our favourite chapter is called Daily. Indeed, recipes that are easy to follow and help prepare tasty, wonderful food, every day.

Fish Cakes

We prepared her fish cakes with a beetroot, ginger, apple and onion chutney. The fish cakes are intriguing and the chutney is the perfect accompaniment. Yummy!

Cod and Horn of Plenty

The magic of a great combination: only two ingredients supported by butter, olive oil and white pepper. It made us think of James Tanner’s inspiring Take 5 Ingredients. Sometimes you need various cooking techniques and lots of ingredients. Sometimes the combination of only 5 ingredients is all you need to make a perfect dish.

Why perfect? Both the fish and the mushroom are clearly present and nicely balanced. As if the combination brings out the best of both. The butter supports the richness of the fish and the aromas are delicate. The texture of the cod is soft and a touch flaky; the Trompettes de la Mort have a more fibrous and chewy texture. Excellent mouthfeel!

Wine Pairing

You’re looking for a wine that has minerality, a touch of oak and has sufficient body and length, for instance a Chardonnay.
We enjoyed our Cod and Horn of Plenty with a glass of Chablis, Antonin Rodet, Premier Cru, Montmains. It has a clear and pale gold colour. It comes with mineral notes and a touch of lemon. The taste is delicate and persistent with aromas of fresh citrus. It goes very well with the ‘long’ taste of the dish and the citrus is ideal with the cod and butter.

What You Need

  • 150 grams of Cod
  • 100 grams of Horn of Plenty
  • Butter
  • Olive Oil
  • White Pepper

What You Do

Make sure the mushrooms are fresh and dry. They become soggy and smelly easily. Clean the mushrooms thoroughly with a piece of kitchen paper. This can be time consuming. You may want to cut the cod in two. Fry the cod in olive oil with some butter in a non-stick pan. In a second pan fry the mushrooms in olive oil. This may take 5 minutes or so. Transfer the mushrooms from the pan to a warm plate with kitchen paper. When the cod is ready, serve immediately on a warm plate with some white pepper and sprinkle the mushrooms on top.

  • Cod and Horn of Plenty ©cadwu
  • Horn of Plenty ©cadwu

Cod with Bleu d’Auvergne

Bleu d’Auvergne is amongst our favourite cheeses. It’s creamy, semi-hard, moist, powerful, pungent and not too salty. It was created around 1850 in France when a farmer combined cow milk curd with the mould of rye bread. He also noticed that the cheese benefits from increased aeration using needles (similar to the process used when making Stilton cheese). Nowadays Bleu d’Auvergne is a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO), just like the other excellent cheeses from that region (for example Saint-Nectaire and Cantal).
For some reason Bleu d’Auvergne combines extremely well with cod. We tried other combinations, experimented with adding butter, cream or crème fraîche but we always return to this one. It’s a tribute to both the fish and the cheese.

Wine Pairing

The combination may be very specific; wine pairing is not too difficult. In general a fairly present, white wine will be great choice. Could be a Verdejo from Spain, a mildly oaked Chardonnay or a glass of your favourite white wine. No reason to open a bottle of Chablis; the flavours are too bold for a really elegant wine.

What You Need

  • Skinless Cod Loin
  • Bleu d’Auvergne (preferable mature)
  • Olive Oil

What You Do

Heat a heavy cast iron skillet through and through, add olive oil, dry the cod with kitchen paper and fry on the firm side (where the skin used to be) until it’s nice and golden. Flip the fish, reduce the heat and start adding chunks of cheese. It will melt, but make sure you still have these blue bits in there. Baste the fish with the melting cheese. Check the cuisson of the cod (the fish must be opaque and flaky) and serve on a warm plate.

  • Cod with Bleu d’Auvergne ©cadwu
  • Blue d'Auvergne ©cadwu

Lentils with Cod and Cilantro

Lentils are healthy, easy to work with, not expensive, nutritious and high in fiber, protein and iron. Lentils have been around for a long time, so you would expect lentils to be popular, but for some reason they are not. Lentils can be used to prepare soups, salads, dahl, burgers, curry, biscuits (sablés) and so much more.
The three basic types are Green or Brown lentils, Red lentils and Black or Beluga lentils. Red lentils are often dehusked and then split, making them perfect for cooking soup.

In most cases we prefer Du Puy lentil from Sabarot because of their great taste and the fact that they hold their beautiful shape, even when cooked. Sabarot also produces lentil flour; ideal for biscuits, pancakes and waffles.

Beware of fake Du Puy lentils! They have names like ‘Le Puy lentils’ or ‘Dupuis lentils’. All nasty marketing. The real Du Puy lentils come with an Appellation d’Origine Controlee (Protected Designation of Origin).

Wine Pairing

We very much enjoyed a glass of Spanish Verdejo. In our case a bottle of Monteabellón Rueda 2019. In general wines made from the Verdejo grape combine very well with fish. The wine comes with the right acidity, giving freshness to the wine. It has floral aromas typical for the Verdejo grape. You may also recognize the aromas of banana and exotic fruit.

What You Need

  • Shallot
  • Olive Oil
  • Cilantro Seeds
  • Green, Du Puy or Beluga Lentils
  • Mild Fish Stock
  • Cod
  • Butter
  • Fresh Cilantro
  • White Pepper

What You Do

Chop the shallot (seize lentil) and glaze gently in olive oil. In the mean time check the lentils for small pebbles; wash them. Once the shallot is glazed, add the lentils and the crushed cilantro seeds. Heat for a few minutes, as you would do with risotto rice. Add the mild fish stock and leave to simmer on low heat for approximately 20 minutes, depending on the size (and your preference of course). In parallel fry the cod in butter in a non-stick pan. Just before the lentils are ready, add half of the finely cut cilantro to the lentils and mix.
Timing is all. The lentils should be cooked, all liquid evaporated and absorbed and the cod just done. Meaning the cod is opaque and the flakes can be separated easily. And overcooked meaning you can see those nasty small white bits of egg white and the fish becomes dry.
Serve the cod on top of the lentils and sprinkle some cilantro over the lentils and cod. Maybe add a touch of white pepper.

PS In case you think cilantro tastes like soap, feel free to replace the fresh cilantro with parsley. Cilantro seeds do not trigger the soap-like taste.

Cod with Kimizu Sauce

Fashion

Isn’t it interesting how our preferences for aromas and flavours change over time, influenced of course by producers, restaurants and chefs. In general we prefer dry white wine, we think a ragout made of pied de moutons, morels, Comté, oranges, bread crumbs and samphire is really intriguing and why not serve tea with your main dish?
Years ago we probably would have loved poached cod with Hollandaise Sauce and a small carrot sautéed in butter accompanied by a glass of Muscadet. But not today. No poached fish and no soft buttery carrots.
Fashion is about change; not improvement.

Let’s revisit the fish with Hollandaise Sauce and give it a ‘modern’ twist: we very gently fry the fish and serve it with a delightful Kimizu.

We mentioned Kimizu earlier when we wrote about White Asparagus. In this case we will make the sauce lighter by adding extra water. It’s wonderful to see and feel the consistency of the Kimizu in combination with the soft, opaque fish.

Wine Pairing

We enjoyed our fish with a glass of Chardonnay, produced by Antonin Rodet. The wine is made from 100% chardonnay grapes. Its aromas made us think of peach. It has clear floral notes. The taste is rich, with flavours of ripe fruit, subtle oak  and minerality.
In general we would suggest a chardonnay with a little oak and a long finish.

What You Need

  • For the Fish
    • Fresh Cod
    • Olive Oil
    • Butter
    • White Pepper
  • For the Kimizu
    • 2 Egg Yolks
    • 1,5 tablespoon of Rice Vinegar (depending on the size of the egg yolks and the acidity of the vinegar)
    • 3 tablespoons of Water
    • 2 teaspoons of Mirin (1 could also be fine, depending on your taste)

What You Do

Warm a non-stick frying pan. Lightly coat the pan with olive oil and butter and then place the pan over medium-high heat. Gently fry until nearly done. Best would be to buy tail end with the skin on, allowing you to fry the fish on its skin. Turn it for a few seconds, allowing for a light golden colour. The fish is ready when the flesh has become opaque.
In parallel whisk the two egg yolks, add the rice vinegar, the mirin and the water. Whisk well. Now set your microwave to 90 seconds and 30% power. Give the mixture 10 seconds and whisk, Repeat this with 5 seconds of warmth followed by whisking. You will notice the change in the consistency. Depending on the size of the eggs, the temperature of the ingredients and the quality of your microwave this may take something like 60 seconds.
Serve the fish with white pepper and a generous helping of kimizu. And if it makes you smile, please add some carrots, sautéed in butter!

Cod with Kimizu ©cadwu
Cod with Kimizu ©cadwu

Choucroute de la Mer with Riesling

Bofinger

The traditional Choucroute Garnie or d’Alsa­ce comes with various sausages, smoked pork belly, confit de canard, steamed potatoes and Dijon mustard. Combine it with a glass of Riesling and you will have a great dinner. Perhaps a bit heavy on the stomach, but the sauerkraut itself will make things lighter.
A very interesting variation is called Choucroute de la Mer. We have fond memories of restaurant Bofinger in Paris. They serve an excellent Choucroute de la Mer with haddock, salmon, sea bass, king prawns, boiled potatoes and horseradish butter. The haddock is actually smoked haddock, which works really well with the choucroute. The sharp horseradish is an excellent alternative for the Dijon mustard. When in Paris, go to Bofinger and order Choucroute de la Mer!

For some reason it’s hard to find smoked haddock where we live, so we tried smoked herring (kippers). Worked very well. And because we wanted to give the fish a deeper, fermented flavour (after all, the choucroute is fermented white cabbage) we marinated the fish in miso before frying it. Excellent result, deep and intense flavours and not to heavy on your stomach.

Wine Pairing

We very much enjoyed a glass of Riesling with our Choucroute de la Mer. We decided to buy a bottle of 2017 Riesling Kalkmergel, produced by Weingut Rings. It’s a classic, organic Riesling from the Pfalz in Germany. It is juicy and fresh with balanced acidity. Great combination with the sauerkraut, the fish and the umami from the miso.

What You Need

  • For the Marinated Fish
    • Salmon
    • Haddock
    • Miso
  • For the Choucroute
    • One Shallot
    • 500 grams of Sauerkraut
    • 10 – 20 Juniper Berries
    • Dry White Wine
    • Olive Oil
    • Bay Leaf
    • Butter
  • For the Horseradish Butter
    • Horseradish
    • Soft Butter
  • For the Mash
    • Parsnip
    • Jerusalem Artichoke
    • Parsley Root
    • Or a combination of these
    • White Pepper
    • Crème Fraiche
    • Olive Oil
  • 4 Large Shrimps
  • Kippers

What You Do

This recipe requires a bit of planning!
The fish needs to be marinated for five days. Use a shallow bowl, cover the bottom with miso and place the fish on top of it. Now cover the fish with miso, making sure it’s completely coated. It requires a bit of patience. Cover the bowl with foil and transfer to the refrigerator for 5 days. Check every day and if necessary add some miso. We use miso with less salt (and more flavours). After five days the salmon will have a deep red colour and the white haddock will be also have an beautiful red/brown colour. The miso marinate will also change the structure of the fish, so carefully monitor when frying. We have the best results with thinner pieces of fish.
Four days later (so one day before your want to serve the choucroute de la mer): taste the sauerkraut. If too much acidity, then squeeze and remove some of the liquid. Cut and slice a shallot. Crush the juniper berries (feel free to add a few more, we just love them). Now combine the sauerkraut with the shallot and the berries. Mix. Add white wine, a generous splash of olive oil and a bay leaf. Coat a heavy (iron) oven dish with butter and add the mix. Put aluminium foil on top of it, making sure you press it on the sauerkraut (as if it’s a cartouche). Leave for 4-6 hours in the oven on 80° Celsius or 175° Fahrenheit. Cool and store in the refrigirator for the next day.
Warm the dish in the oven (same temperature, let’s say one hour) and in parallel make the mash. Finish with some crème fraiche, a dash of excellent olive oil and white pepper. Keep warm.
Combine the soft butter with the grated horseradish. Taste and adjust. Set aside.
Clean the prawns without removing the head
Make sure you have three nice, warm pans. One heavy iron skillet for the prawns, two non-sticky ones for the salmon and the haddock.
Wash and dry the salmon and the haddock. Decide on the order of frying. We started with the salmon. We like to have a bit of caramelisation on the salmon.
In parallel (planning!) remove the skin from the kippers. Transfer to the the oven and grill two minutes on the former skin side. Turn, drizzle with some olive oil and grill for another three minutes.
Make sure salmon, haddock, shrimps and kippers are ready to be served at the same time.
Serve the sauerkraut on a warm plate and decorate with salmon, kippers, haddock and shrimps. Add the mash. And don’t forget the horseradish butter!

Choucroute de la Mer © cadwu
Choucroute de la Mer © cadwu

Haddock with Shiitake

One of the Most Popular Fish

Well known of course as one of the most popular fish used for Fish and Chips. And when you mention Haddock, Cod is never far away. According to many recipes and foodies the two are very similar in terms of taste and way to prepare.
That’s where we disagree. We think Haddock has a much more delicate taste compared to Cod. Plus its structure is more compact. When frying Cod it’s not difficult to see and feel what the cuison is. The compact structure of Haddock implies that you have to test the cuison in a different way. Frying haddock requires your constant attention.

Shiitake is more and more widely available, which is great! The nutty taste with the firm structure makes them ideal for this dish. Powerful but not overwhelming. The classic White Mushroom (or the chestnut coloured variation) will not do the trick; too soft and not sufficiently intense. The Shiitake brings umami to the dish.

The white wine sauce is actually enriched with Classic Dry Noilly Prat, our favourite vermouth. Why favourite? Because Noilly Prat comes with a touch of bitterness, with umami, bringing the sauce and the Shiitake together. The vermouth is made with a number of botanicals, including chamomile. The white wine will bring acidity, but the dish also requires a hint of sweetness. The vermouth will enhance the natural sweetness of the Haddock. We use fish stock to create the sauce, obviously. Spend some money on buying a jar of excellent stock (or make your own).

So on your plate you have an intriguing combination of fish and mushrooms, with all five tastes represented. Nice isn’t it?

Wine Pairing

Our choice was a bottle of Pinot Grigio made by MezzaCorona. This is a dry and crispy wine with a beautiful deep yellow colour. It’s an elegant wine with just the right acidity to relate to both the fish and the sauce. The producer mentions hints of chamomile.

What You Need

  • 200 grams of Haddock (without the skin)
  • 100 gram of Shiitake
  • Shallot
  • Parsley
  • Butter
  • Olive Oil
  • Fish Stock
  • Noilly Prat
  • Dry White wine
  • White pepper

What You Do

Start by cutting the shallot. Fry gently in butter for a few minutes. Clean the Shiitake with kitchen paper and slice. Check the fish for bits you don’t want to eat. Add wine and Noilly Prat to the shallots and let the alcohol evaporate. Then add parsley and some fish stock. Leave for a few minutes and taste. Maybe add a bit more vermouth or fish stock. Be careful with the white wine. In parallel fry the fish in butter and olive oil. Both sides should be beautiful golden brown. Gently fry the shiitake in olive oil. When not yet completely ready (check the flexibility, feel how warm the fish is) transfer the fish to a sheet of aluminium foil. Don’t close it; you only want to keep it warm. Pass the sauce through a sieve and be ready to blender the sauce. Add all juices from the two pans and from the aluminium wrapping. Blend the liquid. You could add a small chunk of ice-cold butter to thicken the sauce. We didn’t.
Serve the fish on top of the sauce and add the shiitake. Perhaps a touch of white pepper.