Bill Granger recipes: Our chef reveals how to make home-made fishcakes more exciting than uninspired supermarket offerings

I've always been a fan of finding easy ways to get dinner on the table – show me a short cut that doesn't compromise on flavour or quality and I'm a happy man. So it is that we have jars of ready-cooked beans and roasted red peppers in our cupboards, shop-bought fresh stock in our fridge and soups from my favourite local deli in the freezer.

In this spirit, I recently bought some fancy fishcakes – but now I know that's a compromise too far. They just weren't tasty enough! To be truly delicious, a fishcake really needs to pack a tasty punch, so I like to pep them up with spices, chilli and herbs.

Inspired by different cultures and cuisines, the three recipes here all have plenty of flavour, texture and freshness. I guess that's what makes fishcakes a perennial favourite in my house. Actually, when my girls were younger, I often abused their popularity, using them as a vehicle to introduce the kids to new flavours and a guaranteed means of increasing their fish intake.

And let's face it, they're not exactly labour-intensive to make from scratch, either…

Vietnamese fishcake parcels

Serves 4

500g white fish, chopped
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 garlic cloves, crushed
4 spring onions, thinly sliced
1½ tbsp fish sauce
50g green beans, thinly sliced
3 tbsp light-flavoured oil

For the nuoc cham dressing

1 garlic clove, crushed
1 red chilli, chopped
1 tbsp caster sugar
3 tbsp lime juice
2 tbsp fish sauce

To serve

50g vermicelli rice noodles, soaked according to packet instructions
Handful mint sprigs
Handful coriander sprigs
1 iceberg lettuce, leaves torn into large pieces
2 limes, cut into wedges

Put the fish, egg, garlic, spring onions and fish sauce in a food processor and pulse until the mixture just comes together but isn't completely smooth. Stir through the beans. Cover with cling film and chill in the refrigerator.

Now combine all the ingredients for the nuoc cham dressing in a bowl and set aside.

Prepare the noodles, herbs, lettuce and limes to serve with the fishcakes.

Shape the fishcake mixture into small patties, about 2cm thick. Heat the oil in a large frying pan over a high heat. Fry the fishcakes for 2 minutes on each side. Drain on kitchen paper and serve hot with the lettuce leaves, noodles, nuoc cham dressing, herbs and lime in separate dishes so that everyone can help themselves.

Herby salmon fishcakes in polenta crumb

The cornichons in these fishcakes add a lovely crunch and sharpness. They can be quite salty, so make sure to taste the mixture before seasoning further.

Ingredients for the salmon fishcakes in a polenta crumb Ingredients for the salmon fishcakes in a polenta crumb (Kristin Perers)
Serves 4

400g floury potatoes, peeled
1 tbsp plain white flour, plus further 50g
2 tbsp chopped dill
30g watercress, chopped
3 spring onions, chopped
3 cornichons (or 1 small gherkin), finely chopped
350g hot smoked salmon, flaked
1 beaten egg
1 tbsp milk
50g polenta
4 tbsp light-flavoured oil

To serve

Mayonnaise
Lemon wedges
Seasonal vegetables

Place the potatoes in a pan and cover with water. Bring to the boil then simmer until cooked through. Drain, return to the pan and mash. Set aside to cool then stir in 1 tbsp of flour. Stir through the dill, watercress, spring onions and cornichons. Fold through the salmon and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Shape into 8 cakes and chill for 30 minutes.

Break the egg into a bowl and beat the milk in with a fork. Place the 50g of plain flour and the k polenta in separate shallow bowls. Coat the fishcakes in plain flour, then egg, then polenta. Heat the oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat. Fry the fishcakes for 5 minutes on each side. Drain on kitchen paper and serve with mayo, lemon wedges and green beans, or your veg of choice.

Herby salmon fishcakes in a polenta crumb Herby salmon fishcakes in a polenta crumb (Kristin Perers)
Indian-style fishcakes with mango chutney and raita

These spicy little morsels are a real crowd-pleaser. I like to serve them as nibbles with drinks before moving on to a light curry.

Serves 6 as a nibble

1 tbsp light-flavoured oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2cm fresh ginger, grated
1 tsp ground cumin
1 green chilli, chopped
1 tsp garam masala
450g firm white fish
1 egg, lightly beaten
65g fresh white breadcrumbs
3 tbsp light-flavoured oil

For the raita

1 Lebanese cucumber, roughly grated
Handful coriander leaves, chopped
Handful mint leaves, chopped
3 tbsp natural yoghurt

For the mango chutney

1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, sliced
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1cm ginger, finely sliced
1 large mango, peeled and chopped
3 tbsp caster sugar
3 tbsp cider vinegar

Start by making the mango chutney. Heat the olive oil in a small pan over a medium heat. Add the onion, garlic and ginger and cook for 5 minutes, until beginning to soften. Add the mango, sugar and vinegar and cook for 8 to 10 minutes, until thick and glossy. Season with salt and set aside to cool.

Now turn your attention to the raita. Wrap the grated cucumber in kitchen paper and squeeze out the water. Tip the cucumber into a bowl, season with salt and stir in the herbs and yoghurt. Set aside.

Indian-style fishcakes with mango chutney and raita Indian-style fishcakes with mango chutney and raita (Kristin Perers)
For the fishcakes, heat the oil in a frying pan over a medium heat. Add the onions and season with salt. Allow to soften for 6 minutes. Add the garlic, ginger, cumin, chilli and garam masala and cook for another 2 minutes. Set aside to cool.

Place the fish in a large bowl and pour over boiling water from the kettle, until the fish is submerged. Cover with clingfilm and set aside for 10 minutes to poach. Drain and, once cooled, flake. Add to the cooled onion mixture with the egg and breadcrumbs. Shape into small 2cm-thick fishcakes. Heat the oil in a large frying pan over a high heat. Fry the fishcakes for 2 minutes on each side, until golden. Drain on kitchen paper and serve with the cucumber relish and mango chutney.

Bill's restaurant, Granger & Co, is at 175 Westbourne Grove, London W11, tel: 020 7229 9111, grangerandco.com

 

Food preparation: Marina Filippelli; Props merchandising: Rachel Jukes

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