As someone who loves fish and seafood I was surprised when a reader asked me for a recipe for fish cakes a while ago. I realised that I don’t have one! I have always liked fish cakes but for some reason, I’ve never made them for my family which is really quite bizarre as they are easy, delicious and served with a salad, they make a really great week-night meal!
I set out to develop my recipe and thought of using smoked snoek only because I love it so very much. You can use smoked mackerel or smoked haddock as well if you can’t find smoked snoek but the snoek really does have a very distinctive flavour. It’s also a South African favourite and it’s normally served with lashings of melted butter and apricot jam after being braai’d. It is absolutely delicious.
I wanted to incorporate an apricot element to the dish and didn’t quite know how to do this when I realised that I’d have to serve my fish cakes with a dipping sauce of some type. Tartar came to mind and I immediately thought of adding apricot jam to the mayonnaise I was planning on making and adding some soaked and finely chopped dried apricots to the finished tartar. Now, I am the first to admit that I don’t normally like fruit in savoury dishes. There’s something about it that gives me the heebie-jeebies but with this it just worked. The apricots complimented the snoek perfectly and added a nice texture to the tartar.
I served the fish cakes with a salad made from rocket, baby spinach and watercress with lashings of the home-made tartar sauce (which is by the way, one of the bests I’ve ever tasted, if I have to say so myself).
Makes 8-12 fish cakes depending on size
1 red onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
500g (17.64 ounces) smoked snoek, de-boned and flaked
250g (8.82 ounces) potatoes, peeled, cooked and roughly mashed
1 tsp smoked paprika
handful fresh parsley, finely chopped
juice of 1 lemon
salt & pepper to taste
flour seasoned with salt & pepper, for dusting
for the tartar sauce
3 extra-large egg yolks
1 heaped teaspoon Dijon mustard
juice of 1 lemon
1 tbsp apricot jam/apricot preserves
250ml (8.45 fluid ounces) canola oil
4 tbsp gherkins, finely chopped
2 tbsp capers, roughly chopped
2 tbsp dried apricots, soaked in hot water for 10 minutes and then finely chopped
3 tbsp fresh parsley, finely chopped
salad, to serve
- To make the fish cakes, fry the onion and garlic in olive oil until soft and translucent. Allow to cool slightly.
- In a large bowl, combine the smoked snoek, cooked potatoes, onion mixture and rest of the ingredients and mix well. Check the seasoning and adjust.
- Form handfuls of the mixture into fish cakes and dust with the seasoned flour.
- Place on a greased tray and refrigerate for 20-30 minutes.
- In the meanwhile, make the tartar sauce.
- In a blender, combine the egg yolks, mustard, lemon juice, apricot jam and salt. Blend for 30 seconds.
- With the blender running, slowly pour in the canola oil. If the mayo gets a bit thick, you can add a few tbsp water before continuing with adding the oil.
- Taste the mayo and adjust the seasoning.
- Add the chopped gherkins, capers, apricots and parsley and adjust seasoning again.
- To cook the fish cakes, heat canola oil in a large frying pan and fry the cakes until golden brown on both sides.
- Drain on kitchen paper and serve with the tartar sauce and salad.