Monday, 14 September 2015

Fish Cakes

 Fish cakes or cutlets as they are commonly known  are extremely versatile. They can be served as a snack, in a sandwich, as an appetizer or a side for a party, and they make a good healthy addition to any kid's lunchbox. All kids love to eat these homemade little patties and you will find yourself struggling to stop them from having more than one at a time!
Fish cakes, shark cutlets
Fish Cakes

I do have to tell you a funny little story about these patties.. My mom, I think makes the best kind. She can turn anything into a patty, vegetables, meat, chicken, lentils... I know I'm biased, but I've tasted a lot in my lifetime from all different sources, and I don't know anyone else's who matches up to hers in terms of flavour. But aside from that, the funny bit I remember when she used to make them, was, she would always count the number of patties she made. She usually made a lot and kept, as it was the easiest snack to go to in the fridge whenever we felt hungry. Fyi, these taste great even cold! For some reason, she didn't like the idea of making 13 patties. So if she did land up making that many, which happened quite often, she would go through the whole process of readjusting the sizes of all the others, to make sure there were either 12 or 14! Funnily, I found myself counting them when I made it yesterday and felt a bit of relief knowing there were 16! 

In my mom's version once the fish is cooked and mashed, she adds in the raw onions, chilles etc to the mix to bind it. In this recipe, I have cooked the onion mixture. My mom's recipe is great if you want a bit of texture to your cutlet, but I had my kids in mind when I made this and you know kids, they don't usually like crunchy bits and bobs in the middle of their food!

The whole process can take a bit of time, but the good thing about it, is you can stop at any stage, put them in the fridge and then take over again when you need to.

I've used shark fillets, as the meat is nice and chunky and barely has any bones so you never have to worry about that accidental bone.

Here goes!

fish cakes, shark cutlets
Shark Cutlets

1 kg shark fillet pieces
1/4 tsp of turmeric powder
salt to taste
1 1/2 cup of water

Onion masala:
1 large onion chopped fine
3 green chillies chopped fine (I used the milder light green variety)
2 tsps ginger garlic paste
salt to taste
1 1/2 tsp coriander powder
1 1/2 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp Kashmiri chilli powder
1/2 tsp turmeric powder

Handful of finely chopped coriander leaves
4 tbsps. of Maggi's hot and sweet ketchup (optional)
2 eggs


In a casserole dish, add the washed shark fillet pieces along with the water, salt and turmeric powder. The water level should be enough to surround each piece of fish. Bring it to a boil, and then check the fish. You may need to turn some of the pieces around so they get immersed in the water, and cook. Once the fish looks tender, which should take around 5 minutes, remove the fish pieces in a plate. Reserve the water, you may need it later.

In a small pan, fry your onions, green chillies, ginger garlic paste and spice powders till the spice powders and onions are cooked. Do this on a low to medium heat so as not to burn the mixture. Put the heat off and reserve.

Using a fork, mash up roughly the cooked fish pieces. Add in the cooked and cooled onion spice mixture and the chopped coriander leaves.

Add in the hot and sweet sauce. This step is optional, but I do find it gives it a lovely burst of flavour. If you can't find it, you can replace it with a sweet chilly sauce.

Don't forget to taste it now. Remember, all the ingredients are cooked so there's no worry there. Adjust your salt or anything else you may want to add.

Form them into patties. The traditional method of making these patties is a long oval shape, to indicate they are fish and not beef. Check and see how the patties come together. If you find the mixture too dry, add a tablespoon of the reserved fish water from before to help give it that moisture and bind it.  Once you have formed the patties, you can store them in the fridge for about 15 minutes so they firm up and are easier to coat. You will have less chances of breakage if you do this step.

Make sure you have the next two steps ready. Beat an egg in a shallow bowl, wide enough to dip the entire patty. Always always season your egg with a little salt and pepper. Every little bit of seasoning helps in the final taste. Keep another plate with breadcrumbs ready.

Remove the patties from the fridge, coat them first in the egg, then the breadcrumbs, adjusting the shape as you go along. My advice would be, to coat all of them and reserve. Don't try to coat and fry them at the same time. You can easily burn your cutlets this way. Coat them all, then you can use your full attention for the frying stage.

Once coated and crumbed, you can again reserve them in the fridge, if you would like to fry them fresh, say, for guests in the evening. Or you can fry them straight away.

Heat the oil in a pan. Add the coated fish cutlets. As you add them to the pan, you can again check for that final shape. My mom's weapon of choice (as I like to call it) is a spatula and a fork, to help flip the patties in the gentlest way possible.

Here, next is my most crucial tip when making patties. If your ingredients are cooked, you must fry your patties on a fairly high heat. Doing so on a low heat can cause them to break.  If you make patties where the meat is raw, then the fire needs to be lower, so that the meat can have time to cook!

Stay right near the fire, turning the patties as gently as you can, ever so often, so that they get a nice golden colour. Remove and set aside on a plate. Store in the fridge once cooled. These can easily stay for a week in the fridge, if you can stop everyone from digging in quietly.

Do remember, any time you open the container, to wipe off any moisture you see collected on the lid or sides, as these will soften the cutlets and make them wet.


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