Faffathons and fish cakes.

Some time ago, a friend told me of a conversation where the other party had airily dismissed homemade lasagne as a ‘Tuesday night tea’. Actually, I have a feeling she said ‘Tuesday night supper’, but supper for me is a glass of milk and a digestive biscuit, whereas homemade lasagne is a faffathon of epic proportions.

Should you be the sort who merrily knocks up a béchamel before you’ve slipped out of your coat, you’re unlikely to be impressed by any recipes I can share in this blog, though you are most welcome and I would love your tips. I dream, futilely, of being that person. If you’re more the sort who has occasions where the thought of having to do more than switch on the oven could make you lie down on the kitchen floor and howl, we might be on the same page.

I have two little minxes, who are PERMANENTLY RAVENOUS and a husband who takes some filling as well.  The relentless culinary demands of these small tyrants can be tedious and exhausting.

Before I had my children I used to love cooking. I would spend happy, leisurely Saturday afternoons preparing feasts (well, you know, meals) for me and my sweetheart and never resent it. Now that I am essentially a food preparation appliance, my key interests are speed and minimisation of washing up.

The balance of healthy with something they can bear to eat is a tricky one to negotiate, but even I had to realise early on that fishfingers for 14 meals a week probably wasn’t going to cut it. Let’s be clear here: I am no great culinarian, nor am I a nutritionist. Nobody has ever suggested I apply for Masterchef. I could no more pinbone a trout than I could fly to the moon, but over the course of the 8736* mealtimes I have experienced, with various levels of success, since my first-born was weaned (I have just calculated rather than counted, fear not), I have managed to cobble together a few meals and snacks that I consider pretty healthy, require minimum faff and have been deemed edible by some harsh critics.

Of course, there have been many, many disastrous interludes. The slow cooker spaghetti Bolognese remains an ongoing source of friction between my husband and myself, six years on and I will not bother to share my recipe for falafel, after the smallest one lay on her back in the middle of the kitchen sobbing that she “wouldn’t be my kid any more” if I made her eat them. Nobody needs this at 6pm. (Child no 1 – in every sense of the word this particular mealtime – struggled on manfully with them, but firmly declined my offer of seconds. As luck would have it, I had made a generous batch – thinking how smug I could feel the following week as I jauntily removed them from the freezer and presented them to rapturous applause… Ah well. There was no rapturous applause as I removed them from the freezer and presented them to the kitchen bin. Even I couldn’t face them again.)

Fishcakes are something that we eat rather a lot. I think, to be brutally honest, my kids would pick Captain Birdseye, given the choice, but they eat these very happily.

Fish cakes

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Ingredients

  • 2 fish fillets (I used frozen: 1 coley and 1 salmon. You could use tinned salmon)
  • 2 large potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • Small handful of grated cheddar
  • Zest of 1/2 to 1 lemon
  • 1 egg
  • A pinch of dried mint – (optional, but surprisingly popular)
  • Optional: small handful of frozen peas or sweetcorn.
  • Butter/olive oil, for frying

Method

  • Cook your diced potato. This can been easily effected in a microwave; in a covered bowl with a couple of tablespoons of water for 6 mins or so, depending on how big your dice are.
  • Mash into a large bowl and allow to cool slightly.
  • Unless you are using tinned fish, cook the fillets according to instructions (I usually poach in some water for 5 mins-ish or microwave for about 3 mins.)
  • Flake the fish into the bowl of mashed potato.
  • Season with salt and pepper to your requirements and add in the cheese and whichever of the lemon zest/dried mint/frozen veggies you are using.
  • Add in the beaten egg and mix it all together. Allow to cool.
  • When cooled, if the mixture seems rather wet, add in a tablespoon or two of flour or breadcrumbs, until you get a consistency that you can form a fairly solid cake from.
  • At this point I shape the whole mix into fishcakes and freeze any I won’t be cooking on a baking sheet, lined with baking paper. When they are frozen hard I put them in a ziplock bag, usually forgetting to label, so I can wonder over them at a later date. You could, of course, be cleverer and label yours. 

  • To cook, I usually brown them on both sides in a frying pan until crisp and golden, then pop them into the oven to cook through for 20 mins or so at 170°C while I faff about with something to go with. Alternatively, cook in the frying pan for about 10  mins and check they are piping hot in the middle.
  • I generally serve with potato wedges and kiddie staples sweetcorn/peas/beans, but they have been known to be consumed as burgers in brioche buns. This went down very well.

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