Sometimes the best things I make at home are the most unobtrusive.
Last week, with seemingly nothing in the fridge apart from some left-over chicken and a bit of curling cheddar, I almost gave in and went to the chipper. The big grazy cheeseburger was calling!
I resisted though and with a quick rifle through the cupboard I un-earthed some further ingredients I thought might work out: A tin of tomatoes, some Italian mixed herbs, chilli flakes and a third of a bag of penne pasta. You can probably see where this is going.
With some more searching I added creme fraiche to the armoury along with a fat clove of garlic and my impromptu chicken and tomato pasta bake was underway.
I sizzled the sliced garlic in a glug of olive oil before adding the tomatoes with a pinch of sugar, some salt and pepper and the chilli flakes and herbs.
After ten minutes, this was stirred through the steaming pasta with a tablespoonful of the cream, a handful of chopped chicken and some grated cheddar on top.
In all honesty, it was the tastiest thing I ate last week (apart from the bacon and lentil soup my mother made, but that’s another story).
The thing is: I had no intentions of making a chicken-y pasta bake, apart from the fact that I didn’t want to waste the chicken. It could have so easily gone the way of a chicken and mayo sandwich but that wouldn’t have been so much fun.
And wouldn’t you know it: Almost exactly the same thing happened on Saturday night. With the best laid plans of mice and men, I had planned on pizza, that is, until I noticed that the smoked mackerel was turning the best before corner. And if there’s anything I hate wasting more than chicken it’s smoked mackerel.
The easy way out would have been a smoked mackerel paté (with sour cream and lime juice and salt and pepper – killer material for dipping) but in the end I wanted something more substantial.
The end result was fish cakes, the most magnificent fish cakes with added Mexican zing.
I’ve no idea if this is how they eat their fish cakes in Mexico (if they eat fish cakes at all) but this is how we do it in Drumquin on a Saturday night.
200g of smoked mackerel, de-boned and skinned and broken into pieces
2 hard boiled eggs
1 egg, whisked
cup of plain flour
400g of left-over mash
1 tbsp of sour cream
2 tbsps of Cholula Chipotle Sauce
salt and pepper
3 spring onions, white parts only, finely chopped
pico de gallo (to serve)
light olive oil for frying
I wouldn’t bother boiling spuds for this recipe so if you don’t have enough left-overs use a tub of Mash Direct, which is conveniently 400g. However, if you’re using Mash Direct or a similar product, leave out the sour cream. These pre-cooked spuds will be wet enough.
Put the potato into a large mixing bowl and then grate the hard-boiled eggs and add those to the bowl with the sour cream (if using), Cholula, spring onions and stir it all up.
Season to taste with the salt and pepper.
Next add the flaked fish and fold it through.
Take a small handful of the mixture, form it into a fish cake shape and set aside. Repeat until all the mixture is used up.
Place the flour in one shallow bowl and the whisked egg in the other. Then, trying to make as little mess as possible (lest Herself turns up and goes mad), dredge the juvenile fishcakes, first through the flour, then through the egg and finally through the flour again. Do this until all the cakes are floured and egged and set them on a lightly floured plate until ready to fry.
Pour a quarter of an inch of the olive oil or sunflower oil into a frying pan and bring to a medium to high heat.
When hot, fry the cakes two or three at a time for about three minutes on either side until crispy on the outside and cooked through. Again, repeat until they’re all fried.
If I were you (or if you were visiting on a Saturday night when these are being scoffed), I’d serve these with that Mexican staple pico de gallo (chopped onions, tomatoes, jalapenos, coriander, seasoning and a good squeeze of lime), yet more Cholula and a big grin.
Mexican beer is optional but recommended.
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