Sardine fish cakes 

Photographed in the middle of singing our own version of The Wheels on the Bus. I made the mistake of suggesting ‘the grandad on the bus says have some crisps’ as a verse, after which the fish cakes lost their appeal.

He ate half the fish cake. And a packet of crisps.

Makes 4-5 fish cakes (just the two of us so I froze two)

400g mashed potato (ours were leftovers – if cooking from scratch leave to cool first)

200g tinned sardines (about 2 tins), drained and broken up -coincidentally how I felt on Saturday after a full day of screaming tantrums

1 teaspoon mayonnaise

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

1 small egg, lightly beaten

1 tablespoon breadcrumbs and more to coat

A few chives, finely chopped

Salt

Combine the ingredients, adding more breadcrumbs if the mixture seems too wet. Form into patties and sprinkle them with breadcrumbs, turning over and sprinkling again. I chilled them at this point but according to the recipe there is no need!

Get a couple of tablespoons of sunflower oil very hot in a large frying pan then fry the fish cakes for a couple of minutes on each side, till deep golden brown.

We had ours with broccoli, Bert had half a slice of buttered bread, I had half an avocado, sliced and drizzled with chili oil and sea salt. Bert begged to try the avocado then declared it ‘too frothy’.

This is another one from the National Trust Family Cookbook, only I subbed smoked mackerel with tinned sardines.

Salmon fish fingers 


Daddy’s away with work for nearly four weeks. Today’s only day two but I’ve already been told Bert’s cross with him four times. When we walked the dog on the heath by the hospital this afternoon, Bert pointed at a man aged, I don’t know, 90, and said ‘is that my dad?’ I thought the man didn’t hear but he gave us a bleary wink and said ‘I wish I was!’ 

As we approached someone sitting outside the hospital, Bert said, ‘that my dad? Oh no,’ dismissively and loudly, ‘just old man.’ ‘Not old!’ I said brightly, ‘and not a man!’ 

Then Bert repeated, with great pleasure and not for the first time, his version of the birth story I told him last time we were here, since this was the hospital he was born in. ‘Didda in Bert’s punny [tummy]. Very big bottom. Huge! Mum take Bert hospital and Didda come out Bert’s punny. We put nappy on Didda and blanket and take him home.’ 

I guess sometimes missing people comes out in funny ways. And, sometimes, a story can put an image into your brain that can never be undone.

Makes 6

2 salmon fillets

1 tablespoon cornflour

50ml milk

2 tablespoons breadcrumbs

1 tablespoon grated Parmesan

Olive oil

Cut the salmon into strips about a centimetre deep and a couple of centimetres wide. There’s often a thin end of a fillet so cut that off and slice the remaining piece horizontally in a parallel line to the surface of the fillet. Arrange the flour, milk and mixed crumbs and cheese in three bowls and production-line dip the fish in flour then milk then crumbs & cheese. Fry in olive oil on a medium heat for six minutes, turning after three.

Fish fingers


Bert fell asleep in his pram while I was walking Ray today. (Yes, looking like a sixty-year-old man in an armchair.) After an hour we were back at the car and I attempted to lift Bert in – the way I did when he was a baby – but he’s huge and woke up as I tried to haul him in. He cried loudly and angrily as I wrestled him into the seat, and I drove off with him screaming.

After a couple of minutes he stopped crying and was perfectly cheerful. ‘Do you feel better?’ I said. ‘Yes,’ he said conversationally, ‘I was just a bit shocked.’

Serves 2-3

2 skinless hake fillets (like cod but tastier and more sustainable)

2 tablespoons cornflour

100ml milk (enough to dip the fish)

2-3 tablespoons breadcrumbs (if using home made, toast them on a baking sheet in a low oven for an hour first – they keep like this for a few weeks)

Zest of one lemon, finely grated into the breadcrumbs 

2 tablespoons sunflower oil

Slice the fish into strips, around a centimetre thick. Dust in flour, dip in milk then coat in lemony crumbs. Get the oil hot in a large frying pan then turn the heat down to medium and fry the fish fingers till they’re golden and crisp on all sides.

The trick is toasting the crumbs first, adding the zest and frying instead of baking. 

Fish cakes

fishcakes

Highlight of the day: Bert got into bed with me in the middle of the night because he woke up too hot, wrapped a chubby, little arm around my neck and pressed a damp face against me to sleep, even though it must have made him even hotter.

Lowlight of the day: at toddler music group, he grabbed my index finger, used it as a tool to pick his nose, and then licked the bogie off it.

We had fish cakes for dinner.

Makes 8 – we ate 5 between 3 of us and froze 3

1 packet of fish pie mix or about 450g of fish – or any combination of salmon, white fish and smoked fish, in bite sized pieces

Milk, to cover fish

About 350g potatoes, steamed or boiled till tender then mashed

1 egg

1 spring onion, chopped

1 teaspoon French mustard

75g Cheddar cheese, grated

Salt and pepper

To coat:

1 egg, beaten

Flour for dusting

4 tablespoons breadcrumbs

Cover the fish with milk and cook for about 8 – 10 minutes on a medium hob till cooked through. Combine gently with the other ingredients, being careful not to break the fish up too much.

When cool, make handfuls of the mixture into patties and chill for an hour before coating.

Coat each patty with flour, then egg, then breadcrumbs, fry on each side in a little olive oil for 2-3 minutes (till golden), then transfer to an oven and cook at 180 degrees (or near the bottom of the Aga roasting oven) for 10 minutes, till warmed through. If you chill them before coating and don’t move them about while they’re frying, letting them form a firm crust, they hold together well.

 

 

 

Thai crab cakes

Gratuitously cute picture of a sleepy Bert watching The Fox and the Child with his fox, because taking photos at the dinner table at the moment is like dangling a bag of chocolate buttons in front of him, snatching it away then expecting not to get a tantrum out of it.

crab cake

Makes about 12 little crab cakes

2cm piece fresh ginger, peeled and grated

1/4 teaspoon dried chilli flakes, crushed in a pestle and mortar

100g white crabmeat

1/2 small bunch fresh coriander, finely chopped

1 small can (165g or so) sweetcorn, drained

2 eggs (saving 1 for crumb coating)

8 tablespoons breadcrumbs (saving 2 for crumb coating)

plain flour, for dusting

Good glug of olive oil

Combine the ginger, chilli, crabmeat, coriander, sweetcorn, one egg and six tablespoons of breadcrumbs. Chill for at least 20 minutes then mould into ball shapes (less likely to fall apart than patties). For some reason the chilling makes them more biddable than if you do it straight away, so you’re less likely to end up swearing at sweetcorn. The longer the chill, the more biddable the mixture – a couple of hours is even better. If I don’t finely chop the coriander I’ll spend all of dinner removing strands of it before Bert gets bored and decides that eating in general is a bad idea.

Beat the remaining egg and dip your patties first into flour, then egg, the breadcrumbs. Fry in a hot pan for two or three minutes on each side, till crisp and golden, then transfer to the oven at 200 degrees (or the middle of the Aga roasting oven) for five to ten minutes.

Fish stew

fish stew

Grumpy face. Got even grumpier in the few seconds after this photo was taken.

I looked at the fish pie mix in the fridge, thought about yet another fish pie and felt uninspired. This is a simplified version of a bouillabaisse.

Serves 3

1 glug olive oil

1 dessert spoon butter

1 onion, chopped

2 big garlic cloves, crushed

A few tarragon leaves, chopped (or some dried tarragon)

1 yellow pepper, roughly chopped

2 carrots, roughly chopped

1 can chopped tomatoes

1 dessert spoon tomato puree

1 pinch saffron

Salt and pepper

1 fish pie mix (salmon, cod, smoked fish)

Squeeze of the juice of half a lemon (another good reason to have a G&T later)

1 dessert spoon of butter

Melt the butter and oil and then cook the onion and garlic gently till transparent, then add the tarragon, veg, saffron, seasoning, tomato puree and tinned tomatoes (and half a can of water from the tap). Bring to the boil and then either simmer for 40 minutes or so, or slow cook (I put my in the Aga slow cooker for 3 hours). At that point, puree it, add the lemon juice and extra butter and tip in the fish, cooking till it’s tender – about 10-15 minutes.

We had ours with bread and butter.

Crab chowder pasta

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Bert demolished this. I was obviously more restrained.

Serves 2-2.5

1 garlic clove, crushed

A little olive oil

100ml sour cream

Pinch of saffron

Good pinch of paprika

200g sweetcorn

100g crab meat

Handful grated parmesan and more to serve

Salt and pepper

Pasta to your appetite

Put your pasta on to boil.

Fry the crushed garlic very briefly in the oil till it’s soft but not coloured, then add the cream, paprika and saffron, cooking very very gently so the saffron can infuse the cream. When the pasta’s cooked, stir the sweetcorn, crab, cheese and seasoning through the cream and stir it all through the hot pasta.

Sprinkle more parmesan on at the table.

Bert: [blowing dramatically on pasta] ‘Hot, hot, hot!’

Me: ‘Is it hot?’

Bert: [extremely patiently] ‘No, not hot.’

Okay…