Fish cake on a plate with watercress & lemon garnish

Ultimate fish cakes

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(110 ratings)

Prep: 25 mins Cook: 30 mins

More effort

Serves 4

Angela Nilsen went in search of perfection in her quest to pack flavour and texture into fish cakes

Nutrition and extra info

  • Freeze, pref unfried - thaw for 4 hours
  • Healthy

Nutrition: per serving

  • kcal359
  • fat12g
  • saturates2g
  • carbs36g
  • sugars3g
  • fibre2g
  • protein29g
  • salt0.7g
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    For the tartare-style sauce

    • 125ml mayonnaise
    • 1 rounded tbsp capers, roughly chopped (rinsed and drained if salted)



      Capers are the small flower buds of the Capparis shrub, which grows in the Mediterranean. As…

    • 1 rounded tsp creamed horseradish
      Horseradish root on a wooden chopping board


      hors rad-ish

      Horseradish root is larger than an ordinary radish, and has a hot, peppery flavour.


    • 1 rounded tsp Dijon mustard
    • 1 small shallot, very finely chopped



      Related to the onion (as opposed to being a younger version of it), shallots grow in clusters at…

    • 1 tsp flatleaf parsley, finely chopped

    For the fish cakes

    • 450g skinned Icelandic cod or haddock fillet, from a sustainable source



      A popular mild-flavoured saltwater fish mainly found in the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. Cod…

    • 2 bay leaves
    • 150ml milk



      One of the most widely used ingredients, milk is often referred to as a complete food. While cow…

    • 350g Maris Piper potatoes



      The world's favourite root vegetable, the potato comes in innumerable varieties. A member of…

    • ½ tsp finely grated lemon zest



      Oval in shape, with a pronouced bulge on one end, lemons are one of the most versatile fruits…

    • 1 tbsp flatleaf parsley, chopped
    • 1 tbsp snipped chives
    • 1 egg



      The ultimate convenience food, eggs are powerhouses of nutrition, packed with protein and a…

    • flour, for shaping



      Flour is a powdery ingredient usually made from grinding wheat, maize, rye, barley or rice. As…

    • 85g fresh white breadcrumbs, preferably a day or two old
    • 3-4 tbsp vegetable or sunflower oil, for shallow frying
      Sunflower oil

      Sunflower oil

      A variety of oils can be used for baking. Sunflower is the one we use most often at Good Food as…

    • lemon wedges and watercress, to serve



      With deep green leaves, and crisp, paler stems, watercress is related to mustard and is one of…


    1. Mix together 125ml mayonnaise, 1 rounded tbsp roughly chopped capers, 1 rounded tsp creamed horseradish, 1 rounded tsp Dijon mustard, 1 small very finley chopped shallot and 1 tsp finely chopped flatleaf parsley. Set aside.

    2. Lay 450g skinned Icelandic cod or haddock fillet and 2 bay leaves in a frying pan. Pour over 150ml milk and 150ml water.

    3. Cover, bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 4 mins. Take off the heat and let stand, covered, for 10 mins to gently finish cooking the fish.

    4. Meanwhile, peel and chop 350g Maris Piper potatoes into even-sized chunks. Put them in a saucepan and just cover with boiling water. Add a pinch of salt, bring back to the boil and simmer for 10 mins or until tender, but not broken up.

    5. Lift the fish out of the milk with a slotted spoon and put on a plate to cool. Drain the potatoes in a colander and leave for a min or two.

    6. Tip the potatoes back into the hot pan on the lowest heat you can and let them dry out for 1 min, mashing them with a fork and stirring so they don't stick. You should have a light, dry fluffy mash.

    7. Take off the heat and beat in 1 rounded tbsp of the sauce, then ½ tsp lemon zest, 1 tbsp chopped flatleaf parsley and 1 tbsp snipped chives.

    8. Season well with salt and pepper. The potato should have a good flavour, so taste and adjust to suit.

    9. Drain off liquid from the fish, grind some pepper over it, then flake it into big chunks into the pan of potatoes.

    10. Using your hands, gently lift the fish and potatoes together so they just mix. You'll only need a couple of turns, or the fish will break up too much. Put to one side and cool.

    11. Beat 1 egg on a large plate and lightly flour a board. Spread 85g fresh white breadcrumbs on a baking sheet. Divide the fish cake mixture into four.

    12. On the floured board, and with floured hands, carefully shape into four cakes, about 2.5cm thick. One by one, sit each cake in the egg, and brush over the top and sides so it is completely coated.

    13. Sit the cakes on the crumbs, patting the crumbs on the sides and tops so they are lightly covered. Transfer to a plate, cover and chill for 30 mins (or up to a day ahead).

    14. Heat 3-4 tbsp vegetable or sunflower oil in a large frying pan. To test when ready, drop a piece of the dry breadcrumbs in - if it sizzles and quickly turns golden brown, it is ready to use.

    15. Fry the fish cakes over a medium heat for about 5 mins on each side or until crisp and golden. Serve with the rest of the sauce (squeeze in a little lemon to taste), lemon wedges for squeezing over and watercress.

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    Comments, questions and tips

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    20th Jul, 2019
    Loved this! We had 350 g of leftover whitefish that I used to make this (already taken off the bones), so I didn't have to cook it, or use the milk/water or bay leaves. I used 250 g of mashed red potatoes with the skin on, to match the lesser amount of fish I had. I got 4 big patties and 3 smaller ones out of what I had, so I can only imagine how many I would have got if I'd had the correct amounts called for! 4 stars for that, but definitely 5 for taste! I used Panko for the bread crumbs.
    11th Jun, 2019
    absolutely loved these fish cakes. Bit of a faff to make so made some for the freezer. Really enjoyed the mayonnaise sauce which I normally wouldn't bother with but it really enhanced the cakes.Would not do them without it.
    2nd Jun, 2019
    Really tasty and well worth making.
    Danni Williams's picture
    Danni Williams
    17th Apr, 2019
    This recipe is 5 star. I would highly recommend making these. This is a firm family favourite in my house and even my fussy 7 year old devours them. I usually make these with some or all with smoked haddock as I love the flavour. Once you've made them a couple of times, they really are not that time consuming to make.
    30th Jan, 2019
    The sauce is amazing, even though I didn't have any horseradish and used a little less coriander instead of the parsley. And yes, you do have to mix a good spoonful of the sauce with the potato - before you make the cakes and fry them (I wondered about that). I made six cakes out of this - as I prefer them a bit smaller. It's a bit of work, but will be doing this again. Delicious.
    10th Sep, 2018
    Delicious! I made this recipe with a mixture of salmon and smoked haddock. I made a double batch and open froze some (before the frying stage) and then stored them in a plastic box once frozen. They don’t suffer at all for being frozen like that. Since there’s a bit of faffing around to make them, it makes sense to make a double batch and store some for a future occasion! I finished cooking mine in the oven at 180 for about 10 minutes - they seemed to be getting too brown and I didn’t want to burn the outsides before the middles were warmed through. My children loved them.
    Catherine Burn's picture
    Catherine Burn
    1st Sep, 2018
    Wow, this was a massive hit with my family, the sauce was delicious. I used frozen fish to make it more budget friendly. My kids all wanted seconds!
    20th Mar, 2018
    Great way to use up leftover mash, plus massively cuts down on prep time. Really simple and delicious - served with spinach and homemade mushy peas.
    19th Mar, 2018
    I’d made fish cakes before and knew that they weren’t a quick and easy meal. I had some smoked haddock and fresh king prawns in the fridge and felt like doing something different, so found this recipe. I cooked the haddock, as stated, in the milk and added the prawns last thing, to finish off in the hot milk, then chopped them when I later flaked the fish. I didn’t make the sauce but made breadcrumbs out of a stale home-made whole meal loaf and finished the cooking in my AGA after frying. I then served the fish cakes with buttered, wilted spinach and poached eggs. They tasted fabulous and yes, they are a faff to make (don’t believe the timings on the recipe) but they make a substantial meal. I wouldn’t make them frequently but for a change, this is a delicious recipe. Four stars instead of five because of the time they take to prep.
    Thomas Ward's picture
    Thomas Ward
    14th May, 2018
    How long did this take. What r u doing with ur life


    Julie Nolan
    22nd Mar, 2018
    Hello, I've not made these yet as would like to know if these fishcakes would freeze well?
    goodfoodteam's picture
    1st Apr, 2018
    Thanks for your question. When applicable, we put our freezing instructions above the nutritional figures. In this case, we think it's best to freeze the fishcakes before frying. Defrost them for at least four hours in the fridge until fully thawed before cooking.
    6th Mar, 2018
    Could I oven cook these? I’ve just made them, they are chilling but don’t have the oil for deep frying.
    goodfoodteam's picture
    8th Mar, 2018
    Thanks for your question. These fish cakes are shallow fried so only need 3 - 4 tbsp oil for frying.
    20th Oct, 2015
    The ingredients really come together nicely in this dish, but have you considered using tilapia fish instead of cod or haddock? While it was specified to use fish from a "sustainable source," you could go one step farther. Cod and haddock are both on the Marine Conservation Society’s list of "fish to avoid" because they are widely over-fished and inefficiently managed. Tilapia, however, is on the society’s “fish to eat” list and does not require wild fish to be caught to feed it. The society suggests that tilapia is a more sustainable alternative to cod and that its plain flavor allows it to easily absorb other flavors from a variety of herbs and spices. I tried this recipe with tilapia and it was just as tasty! Perhaps you could alter the recipe or at least note the option of using tilapia instead of cod, in order to promote more sustainable choices.
    12th Nov, 2013
    How is this vegetarian?
    Thomas Ward's picture
    Thomas Ward
    14th May, 2018
    It has vegetables
    23rd Jul, 2016
    The chilling time in the recipe is not absolutely necessary - they come out fine without it.
    arnside037's picture
    8th Mar, 2016
    For a gluten free version, crunch up some GF cornflakes or bran flakes and use this instead of breadcrumbs. Or use ordinary cornflakes and bran flakes if breadcrumbs are not readily available.
    29th Jun, 2015
    Try using smoked fish, makes the actual fish cakes taste much better, using normal fish leaves you with a normal fish cake with lovely sauce. Smoked fish will make it stand out a bit more.
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