Fish cakes are Irish traditional fare at its very best, and are created by combining mashed potatoes, flaked cooked fish and herbs, then formed into individual cakes, and coated in bread crumbs before frying.
This is a perfect recipe for using left over mashed potatoes, if such a thing ever exists. But don’t worry you can always boil a few spuds for mashing to make these delicious and economical fish cakes.
Cod fish cakes may be simple, but are ever so tasty. Traditional Irish fish cakes often use salmon, or a mixture of salmon and white fish. We’ll delve into those recipes at another time, but for now, let’s make some Irish cod fish cakes.
To Poach The Fish:
- 1lb cod fillets
- 1/4 teaspoon black peppercorns
- 1 small onion (peeled and sliced)
- 1 cup whole milk
To Make The Fish Cakes:
- 1 cup mashed potatoes
- 1 lb flaked cooked cod (can be poached using ingredients above)
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
- 1 or 2 cloves minced garlic
- 1 large egg (for binding the fish cakes if needed)
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup of grated parmesan cheese (optional)
- 1/2 cup flour (for dusting the fish cakes)
- 1 large beaten egg (for coating the fish cakes)
- 1 cup fine breadcrumbs (for coating the fish cakes)
- butter or oil for frying the fish cakes.
Irish fish cakes are made from pre-cooked fish. If you ever have some left over fish you can simply flake it to add it to the mashed potato mixture.
But I confess I seldom have any left over fish, so I always poach cod for making fish cakes.
I use poached fish, since you can add extra flavor by adding some aromatics to the poaching liquid. I add some peppercorns and sliced onion to milk in a large saucepan. I bring the milk to simmering point, then reduce the heat and allow it to simmer for a few minutes before adding the fish.
Cod cooks very quickly when poaching so it’s a good idea to infuse the milk with as much flavor as possible before adding the fish. Once I’m happy that the onion has leaked some of its flavorsome juices into the milk I add the fish, and simmer it on low heat for 7 to 10 minutes depending on the thickness of the fish pieces.
Once cooked allow the fish to cool in the milk, then remove it with a slotted spoon and flake it into a large bowl. Keep your eyes open for any bones that may have escaped during the filleting process.
Reserve the liquid, which may be needed to bind the fish cakes if your potatoe mixture is very dry.
You can add the mashed potatoes directly to the flaked fish, but I find the texture of my fish cakes is smoother if I press the potatoes through a sieve first.
Next add the minced garlic, parsley, salt and pepper and combine well together.
This is the point to add grated parmesan cheese if you want to kick the flavor up a little bit.
I know this is definitely not a traditional Irish ingredient. I can even hear my granny saying “it’s far from parmesan you were raised”, but believe me this little addition takes these savory cakes to a whole new level of tastiness.
Other options for spicing up your fish cakes are to add some finely chopped sauteed onion, or a little lemon juice and dill. Now I didn’t marry an onion loving man, so we stick to parmesan cheese for extra flavor.
Now you need to form the mixture into a dough ball. Sometimes you don’t need to add any extra liquid or binding agent. However, if your potatoes are ‘floury’ as we say in Ireland, you may need about half of a beaten egg to bind the mixture.
If your mixture is still very dry, you can add a tablespoon or two of the milk left over from poaching the fish.
If you end up with a wet and overly sticky mixture just add a little flour to form a dough.
This recipe yields eight large fish cakes. Score your dough ball with a knife to help divide the mixture evenly into eighths.
Next we need to form the cakes and I find the only way to do this is to dig in and use my hands – just like our grannies did many years ago.
So using your floured hands pick up one eighth of the mixture. Pat it between the palms of your hands, and form it into a flat, round cake.
The final preparation stage involves coating the fish cakes in a breading layer. This is a typical step in most traditional Irish fish cake recipes.
Set up 3 bowls, one with flour, one with beaten egg and the other with breadcrumbs.
Coat each fish cake in flour. Dip it in the egg wash and then coat in breadcrumbs. Repeat with the rest of the fish cakes.
Now, you should have eight pretty evenly sized fish cakes ready and waiting for frying.
Next heat the butter or oil in a large skillet. I love to use a cast iron pan for these cakes.
Fry the fish cakes for about 5 to 6 minutes on the first side or until nicely golden brown.
Flip the fish cake and brown for 4 to 5 minutes on the other side. You’ll probably need to cook four cakes at a time to allow plenty of room in the pan around each piece.
Serve hot with a side of vegetables or a crisp green salad. Fish cakes were often served with parsley sauce in years gone by, but a little dash of lemon or some tartar sauce gives these fish cakes a little modern twist.
These are a family favorite in our house. I hope you too enjoy this little taste of Ireland from days gone.
Here’s the printable recipe.