Learn the secrets of making perfect fish cakes at home that are not soggy, keep together in the pan, have a crisp exterior, have a tasty and firm to eat.
Many have tried, but few have succeeded, despite making also sorts of adjustments.
Unfortunately fish cakes is one of those dished that is extremely hard to perfect and do well, every time. There are so many small subtle things that can go wrong.
Well finally the solution to the mystery of perfect fish cakes has been found. This article provides all the answers with tips that work and the best ever recipes for making the best ever fish cakes at home, that are not soggy, floury and do not break up in the pan.
The main culprit when things go wrong is controlling the moisture level in the mix. This is not simply a matter of controlling the amount of milk or water added to the recipe, but relates to the potatoes and even the type of fish used. If the mashed potatoes are too soggy or soft, or they have been overcooked or are of the wrong type, the mixture may be already be useless for perfect fish cakes. You can sometimes recover the situation by adding extra flour, but this can destroy the taste and texture of the fish cakes.
Similarly the type of fish you use can also be a problem. Canned fish such as tuna or salmon can contain too much liquid. You may need to squeeze out any excess moisture before you add the fish to the mixture. Also some types of cooked fish can also be soggy and mushy especially when oily or soft fish are used. Try to slightly under-cook the fish to keep it firm. Choose firm fleshed varieties of fish The final part of the cooking can be completed when the fish cakes are being cooked. Too much oil added when onions or other ingredients when they are fried can also decrease the firmness of the mixture. If you use peas, once again drain well before adding and make sure they are not over-cooked (keeping the peas under-cooked mean that they retain their shape and adding color and texture to the fish cakes, without making them soggy.
The take-home message is that you cannot successfully fry soggy mash or soggy fish cake mixture.
Another cause of failure are the onions or leeks. If they are chopped too coarsely they can burn when the fish cakes are being cooked. The onions can also act a failure points in the cakes causing fault lines about which the cakes can fall apart when being cooked. The onions should be chopped very finely to avoid these problems. Many people do not like the taste of raw onions in the cakes, which can be too overpowering and obscure the subtle taste of the herbs and fish. You can overcome this by frying the onions until they are soft before adding them to the mixture. Always drain the cooked onions well before adding to the mixture to avoid excess moisture in the mix.
When frying the fish cakes, always use a high-smoke point oil such as grape seed oil or rice bran oil varieties rather than butter or olive oil. This means that higher temperatures can be used which helps stop the oil being absorbed into the fish cakes and prevents burnt oil tainting the flavor. Always make sure the pan and oil are very hot before adding the cakes. Wipe out the pan and reheat fresh oil for each batch.
For coating the cakes prior to frying
Wash the potatoes well. You can peel them or leave them on, if the skins are clean (this boosts the nutrients). Boil the potatoes in salty water until they just start to soften in the center (generally about 30 minutes). Meanwhile fry the leek in butter for about 5 minutes, until the pieces soften. Add the peas and cook for one or two minutes. You can mash the peas and potatoes together or add the peas to the mashed potatoes. Drain the potatoes well and mash coarsely without adding milk or water unless absolutely necessary. Allow the mashed potatoes to cool in a sieve colander so that any excess moisture can escape as steam. Remove the skins if the potatoes were not peeled. Do not over-mash the potatoes as the cooking will continue as they cook and when the fish cakes are being cooked. The firmness adds to the texture of the fish cakes.
Next, add the milk to the pan that was used to cook the leeks and heat until just starting to bubble. Add the haddock or other fish fillets to the milk. Lower the heat and poach the fish, turning once until the fish is just cooked through. Drain the fish, and coarsely flake the fish flesh removing any bones. Add the fish to the mashed potatoes and peas. Err on the side of a drier mixture, adding a little milk sparingly, if necessary. A little flour can be added to get rid of any excess moisture or sloppiness in the mixture. Chucks of fish and potato add texture to the cakes. If you want a smoother style, break up the chunks with a fork. But resist mashing the mixture to paste which will tend to break up when cooked. Fold in the spring onions and Parmesan cheese.
Allow the mixture to cool. This also helps to bind the mixture together. Take large spoonfuls of the mixture and shape into patties with your hands. the size is up to you, but moderate size cakes cook right through without the risk of burning the exterior. Press the cakes well in your hands to ensure they are well bound and firm, so they will be less inclined to break up when cooked.
Set up three bowls with each of the coating ingredients. Coat each of the cakes, rolling in the flour, then the egg-milk mix and then the breadcrumbs. Place the prepared fish cakes on a tray. They can be cooked after cooling in the refrigerator or stored for later use. Cooling the cakes helps keep them intact when cooked, but makes it harder to warm them right through to the core. Test for doneness before completing the cooking.
Heat the frying oil in a large heavy pan until just before the oil starts to smoke. Carefully place each fish cake into the pan and fry over medium to high heat for 3 minutes on each side. Only cook two or three cakes at once. Using a large heavy pan and a small number of cakes for each batch, is essential as it prevents the oil temperature dropping as the cold fish cakes are added. Serve the fish cakes immediately or keep warm on a rack in the oven until they are served.