As part of the ongoing efforts to keep people fed and to use stuff up before it goes off, I decided I wanted to find a recipe for salmon fish cakes. They needed to be suitable for freezing, as my plan was to assemble them and then pass them on to the various people whose freezers I’m keeping stocked.
Jamie Oliver’s recipe for Fish Cakes with Salmon, Potato and Parsley looked good. Here’s what I used in mine:
200g cooked salmon fillet, skin removed, flaked and checked carefully for bones. Cooled.
approx 500g white potatoes, peeled and cubed. *use 600g – I didn’t have enough in the house and the mash was quite wet in the end, requiring extra flour*
1/2 ramekin of Waitrose frozen chopped shallots, gently fried in some olive oil and a tiny amount of unsalted butter until soft.
1 tsp sweet chilli dipping sauce.
1 large egg, beaten (only used about two-thirds)
1/2 ramekin of chopped fresh frozen parsley, from freezer.
White pepper, small pinch of table salt.
Grated zest of an unwaxed lemon.
Loads of plain flour for dusting.
I had been given a pack containing two fresh salmon fillets, weighing about 200g, which needed cooking. Having washed and dried the fillets, I put them into a glass dish, added a tablespoon of water, covered it with a vented lid and microwaved it on full power for 2 minutes, before leaving it to stand for a further 2 minutes. (That’s using a 1000 watt microwave so if yours isn’t that powerful, increase cooking times accordingly in 30 second increments until the fish is cooked all the way through – you don’t want any translucent bits.) Once the salmon has cooked, while it is still warm, remove it from the glass dish and water and place onto a plate. If you flip it so the skin faces upwards, you should be able to remove it whole, simply by running a butter knife between it and the fish. Once you’ve done that, roughly chop it up into large flakes and allow to cool.
I boiled the potatoes in unsalted water then I drained them, let them sit in the colander over the hot pan on the hob for a moment to allow the steam to evaporate, and mashed them really well. I sautéed the frozen shallots (a very handy thing to keep in your freezer) in a little olive oil with just a tiny amount of unsalted butter, to add some flavour. Once they were soft and beginning to go golden brown, without getting too dark, I added them to my bowl of mash and gave it a really good stir: the oil making it creamier and a better texture.
I stirred in the salmon and mixed it well. I had double the amount of fish required for Jamie’s recipe, but not quite enough potatoes and, as I suspected, I didn’t need to add all the beaten egg at this stage. I also mixed in the lemon zest. Then I added the parsley, gave it another good stir and added white pepper until I could taste it, as the flavours were so subtle it was in danger of being horribly bland. The addition of two half teaspoons of sweet chilli dipping sauce (stirring well and tasting after each one) did help improve the taste but it’s fairly high in salt so I only wanted to use the smallest amount possible. I’ve found a recipe to make my own and intend to try that as soon as possible since a low/no salt version would be a really good way of adding flavour to dishes.
Finally, I used a small (rather than the generous one suggested by Jamie) pinch of table salt, which I tried to disperse across the whole dish. Again, I mixed everything really well to try and get a good even flavour. At this stage I was happy with it, and set about trying to be clever by using my burger press to shape the fish cakes rather than my hands. It would have been more successful if I’d had that extra potato and not made the overall mix quite so wet, but it didn’t do a bad job really. I pressed each fish cake out on to a fairly heavily floured board and then used a fish slice to flip each one onto the flour, several times, until well coated. I added more flour as required – they really were quite wet and you need the flour to make them golden when they’re cooked.
I then put the fish cakes onto a silicone spatter guard (versatile beasts) and covered them with cling film before sticking in the freezer. Once frozen, I can interleave them with greaseproof paper and package for storage in the freezer for up to three months. To cook once defrosted, they just need frying in some olive oil for a few minutes on each side, until golden and heated through.
A Cooking Challenge to Myself I await the verdict with interest. In the meantime, I’m making a lasagne for Nan, having just found out that the recommended weekly daily allowance of cheese for someone with chronic heart failure (CHF) is quite small: no more than 1oz (25g) a day. My mission, as always, is to make something that is healthy as it can be, requiring minimal effort to reheat, without compromising too much on flavour. There’s no point stripping out all the bad stuff – you’d be left with something so bland that nobody would eat it. I am of the opinion that eating something must be better than eating nothing, and if I can make something that actually tastes good, then there’s no reason why the whole family shouldn’t be eating it, which makes family meals easier, and means people don’t have to worry about what Nan is eating if it is from me: it will be reduced or no salt.
The reason I’m so keen to help Nan with this is that a lot of the things she’d turn to, in order to make her life a bit easier, are considered positively bad for someone in her condition. That means no more Cup-a-Soups or crisps as snacks and that packet or pre-prepared sauces are likely to be no-go too. If you start looking up how to reduce salt (essentially by not adding salt to food during or after cooking, or using a minimal amount during cooking but never adding it afterwards, and avoiding prepared meals) the first thing you learn is that for someone with CHF, the obvious alternative of something like Lo-Salt is positively forbidden, as it can cause problems with the levels of potassium in the blood if you’re on certain medications, which she is. So you can’t just make a straight substitution. Use herbs, the advice says, and spices and tomato for flavour. Well that’s lovely if you’re an adventurous sort and don’t have the more delicate digestion of an older person.
Although she’s travelled the world, my Nan was born in the late 1920s, and her tastes are simple. She likes things like sliced ham (which she should limit), egg and boiled potatoes, with a side salad in the summer of gem lettuce, sliced tomatoes, cucumber, maybe some sliced boiled egg and Heinz Salad Cream (not something she should now have other than as an occasional treat). As she’s got older she’s relied more on convenience foods, but thinks she’s buying something healthy, not realising how little nutrition they have. Because a cup of instant soup tastes vaguely right and has some rehydrated veg in it, she is generally unaware of all the stuff that gets added in order to get it to taste like that: with salt being a common additive.
We’re waiting for an appointment with the hospital dietician, arranged through the cardiac clinic, but until then, we need to know we’re doing the right thing. It’s not just the meds which have helped: Nan has eaten well on every hospital admission, and although she bemoans the lack of salt, she seems to do well on it, so I’ll try and do the same sort of stuff until we have some proper guidance. Just in case, like me, you considered whether it was really worth making an elderly lady with not much time left change her diet so drastically, if salt levels aren’t kept under control it can create problems which will cause her to go downhill and require the stress of an emergency admission, so we need to do this to help keep Nan in as good a shape as possible for as long as possible. It would just be nice to be able to do it in a way that means that eating doesn’t become some horrible chore.
I’m going over in a bit and will ask her if there’s anything in particular she’d like me to make, and will set to work on that.