Taking the mystery and fear out of cooking
It’s amazing what a can of tuna and a few potatoes can do.If you’re feeding children or even just yourself, you need to keep an eye on nutrition and make sure you’re getting some protein (tuna), carbohydrates (potatoes) and vitamins and minerals (vegetables).
Obviously the easiest thing is to buy some ready-made fishcakes, but that raises the question of what is in them. Manufacturers put all sorts in these things to make them last longer (preservatives), look good (colouring) and taste more tempting (salt, sugar, who-knows-what else).
When you make your own food from scratch you know exactly what you’re getting.
So, on with the supremely simple show.
Tuna (in oil, not water)
Herbs and spices
Boil the potatoes (as discussed in other recipes, you don’t have to peel them unless you really want to, but scrub them clean). Drain the water and add a lump of butter to the pan, then mash them. Add a little salt and pepper if you like. Some people add milk or even cream, but you’re heading for Calorieville that way, and the consistency will get sloppy too.
Chop the onion and fry it briefly and lightly in a little oil. You want to soften it without losing too much of the sharpness of flavor.
Tip the onion into the potato mixture.
Open a can of tuna and drain it. Tip the fish into the mixture. Add a sprinkling of herbs (parsley, thyme or rosemary). Mix it all up with a fork.
This is your basic mixture and the only consideration now is that when you make it into little cakes they will fall apart.
So, crack an egg into it and mix it up. Eggs can bind a mixture when they cook – they’re like the cement in concrete.
If your mixture is a bit soft and squishy, stir in some porridge oats and mix well. They will help to thicken it and won’t affect the flavor significantly.
Taste the mixture and adjust the seasoning: more herbs, salt or pepper, perhaps. Sling in a little grated Parmesan cheese to give it a bit of a lift if you like.
Sprinkle some flour onto a large chopping board or work surface (the flour is to stop it sticking). Turn the mixture onto it and flatten to about one inch high.
Make cakes with whatever you can find that’s circular. Special pastry shapes are ideal, but you probably don’t have them because you’re not that kind of guy.
An empty jam jar would do. If they come out a bit messy, tart them up with a fork
Place your fish cakes onto another floured flat thing and put them in the fridge to rest for 30 minutes or so, so they can adjust to the shape and firm up a little. If you don’t have time for this, just get on with it.
Put a small flood of oil in a heavy frying pan (generally speaking, heavy is better with pans). More oil than just a coating, but not a bath. Heat the oil and carefully place the cakes into it. Fry hot and quickly for a couple of minutes each side, so the fish cakes are golden brown.
Boil the peas, drain and add a knob of butter.
Serve with salt and pepper on the table, plus wedges of lemon for your more refined customers to squeeze on the cakes, and ordinary fish-and-chips malt vinegar for the rest.
COWBOY MASTER TIP
When making things from scratch, remember you’re in competition with the packaged stuff, so make yours as attractive as you can. That means neat and tidy. A mess on a plate tastes the same as perfect geometric gems, but people eat with their eyes.