Salmon fishcakes with sorrel sauce

Main course: Serves 4. Total time 1 hr




Developed long before my time, and that's going back 12 years, these fishcakes are classics at The Ivy, Le Caprice and J Sheekey. It's impossible to say who owns the recipe, but it can't be improved upon. Originally (so the story goes) it came from a Sunday paper, was given to Charles Fontaine, my predecessor at Le Caprice, to develop and has been a hit ever since. Comfort food suits restaurants; those who don't want to de-construct their lunch can just eat with a fork while they concentrate on talking business. You don't need prime-cut salmon fillet to make fishcakes; buy tails or off-cuts or even frozen. Sorrel is easier to grow than it is to find in the shops. Some branches of Sainsbury's stock it in 20g bunches.

325g potato, mashed (without milk or butter)
325g salmon fillet, poached in salted water for 3-4 minutes
1tbsp tomato ketchup
½tbsp anchovy essence
½tbsp English mustard
salt and pepper

For the sauce
250-300ml strong fish stock (a cube will do)
25g butter
1tbsp flour
25ml white wine
100ml double cream
Fresh sorrel leaves (about five), shredded
salt and pepper
700-800g spinach, picked over, washed and dried

To make the fishcakes, mix together the potato, half the poached salmon, the ketchup, anchovy essence, mustard and seasoning until it is smooth. Flake the remaining salmon and fold it in gently. Mould the mixture into 8 round cakes and refrigerate them.

To make the sauce, bring the fish stock to the boil in a thick-bottomed pan. In another pan melt the butter and stir in the flour. Cook very slowly over a low heat for 30 seconds, then whisk the fish stock into the flour mixture. Pour in the white wine and simmer for 30 minutes until the sauce has thickened. Add the cream and reduce the sauce until it is of a thick pouring consistency, then stir in the sorrel and season.

Lightly flour the fishcakes and fry in vegetable oil until coloured on both sides, or brush them with oil and cook for 10-15 minutes in a moderately hot oven (390°F/200 °C/gas mark 6).

Remove the stalks from the spinach leaves, wash the leaves and shake off as much water as possible. Heat a large saucepan over a medium flame, add the spinach, lightly season with salt and pepper and cover tightly with a lid. Cook for 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the leaves are tender. Drain in a colander to remove excess water.

Divide the spinach between four warmed plates, place two of the fishcakes on top and pour over the sauce. Serve immediately.

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