My dad was born and raised in Brixham, Devon, the youngest of four boys to my gran and grandad, who was a sailmaker. Dad tells stories of grandad bringing home masses of fish, which he would have been given by the fishermen down on the harbour side in exchange for sail work. Apparently, he would come home with bags full of Dover sole, plaice, monkfish, crabs, lobsters, and prawns by the gallon bucket. Enough to keep a Little Waitrose fish counter fully stocked!
Fast forward, and after a life of fish, fish and more fish Dad isn’t too keen on the stuff now, so growing up my primary experience of fish was scampi or the odd prawn jacket potato. Mum did try, but the smell was just too much for Dad, so it just didn’t happen.
After I moved away to university my eyes opened to the world of fresh fish, and now we enjoy it at least twice a week. This is one of my favourite recipes from Nigel Slater:
FOR THE FISH CAKES
- 750g of potatoes
- 50g of butter
- 250g of smoked mackerel,
- 3 spring onions
- 30g of fresh dill
- salt and pepper
FOR THE TOMATO SAUCE
- 750g of tomatoes
- Fresh thyme
- Olive Oil
Wash, but don’t peel, the potatoes, then boil them until tender in deep, lightly salted water. Drain and mash them with the butter. Skin the smoked mackerel, break into small pieces and add the fish to the potato. Chop the spring onions finely, and the fresh dill then fold them into the potato mixture with a little salt and pepper.
Pat the fish cake dough into 4 large cakes (or six smaller ones if you prefer) then chill in the fridge for 20 minutes.
Turn an overhead (oven) grill to high. Slice the tomatoes in half and place them snugly on a baking sheet or grill pan. Season with salt and black pepper and a few thyme leaves then cook them under the preheated grill until soft and bubbling. If they have blackened a little then all to the good. Crush them to a scarlet pulp with a fork.
Warm a thin film of butter and olive oil in a shallow pan, then fry the fishcakes first on one side then the other, until the outside is crisp and golden brown. Serve with tomato sauce. Enough for 2.