Saturday, April 9, 2011

Smoked Haddock Fishcakes with Parsley Sauce

Smoked Haddock Fishcakes made with fluffy mashed potatoes are surprisingly easy to make and taste delicious. They make fabulous little appetizers, tasty starters with an arugula and watercress salad and also a nice light dinner. The best fishcakes in the world however are served at The Fountain Restaurant at Fortnum & Mason, one of the oldest stores in London, and one of my favourite places to shop, eat and explore.

Quintessentially English, Fortnum & Mason owes it's royal patronage to Charles Fortnum's years of service to Queen Charlotte, and they are still the purveyor of fine food to the Royal Family today. Famed for their loose-leaf tea and high quality goods, Fortnum's is probably most well known for their luxury picnic hampers, popular with English high society especially during Ascot and the Henley Regatta. To enter Fortnum's from Piccadilly is to be transported into a soft carpeted, sugar-coated fantasy world full of gastronomic delights, adorned with chandeliers and marble pillars and where waistcoated staff exquisitely wrap every package. 

The Fountain Restaurant is just one of Fortnum's four fine restaurants, and the only one that has a separate entrance, just off Jermyn Street. It's also one of my first destinations whenever I'm in London, and I always order the same thing — Fortnum’s Salmon & Smoked Haddock Fish Cakes with Wilted Spinach and Parsley Sauce. They're sublime. Delicately panfried until they're crisp and golden and served on a warm pillow of buttered spinach with a warm parsley sauce. Fortnum's fishcakes are simply the best. The Fountain Restaurant is a destination in itself too, beautifully decorated with gilded finishings and painted Fortnum's famous blue-green — the iconic colour used throughout the store and on all of the packaging.

You don't have to be in London to enjoy Fortnum & Mason fishcakes — this recipe is as close to the original that you can get, without the airfare. If you like, you can also order luxury goods of all description, including their magnificent hampers from their website. And they ship to Canada!

Salmon and Smoked Haddock Fishcakes on Buttered Spinach 
with Parsley Sauce
Makes 12 large fish cakes, or 24 appetizer size

For the fishcakes:
12oz smoked haddock fillets
8oz salmon
whole milk, for poaching the haddock (seasoned with ½ onion, 1 sliced carrot, 1 bay leaf, 4 peppercorns and 2 cloves)
12oz dry mashed potatoes
4oz melted butter
2 small onions, finely diced and sweated in butter
3 anchovies
3 tbsp chopped parsley
2 tbsp chopped dill
salt and freshly ground black pepper
flour, for coating
egg, beaten, for dipping
panko breadcrumbs
3oz butter, for frying

For the spinach:
1oz unsalted butter
1lb spinach, washed

For the parsley sauce:
1 3/4 cup whole milk
a few parsley stalks
1 bay leaf
1 slice of onion, ¼" thick
1/4 tsp nutmeg
10 whole black peppercorns
¾ oz plain flour
1½ oz butter
4 heaped tbsp finely chopped fresh parsley
1 tbsp single cream 
salt and freshly milled black pepper

Cook the haddock and salmon in whole milk with onion, carrot, bay leaf, peppercorns and two cloves until cooked. Remove from the milk and, when cool enough to handle, flake the fish, discarding any skin or bone.

Combine the haddock with the potato, butter, onions and anchovies in large bowl, then fold in the salmon, eggs, parsley and dill by hand until well combined.
Season to taste. If the mixture is too dry at this point add some of the haddock poaching milk.

Depending on the size of your desired fishcake, divide the mixture into small ball-like shapes. Dip in the flour, then the egg and finally the panko and shape into patties. Refrigerate for two hours before use.

Pan-fry in butter for five minutes each side, then keep warm in the oven.

To prepare the spinach, melt 1oz unsalted butter in a large pot. Once the butter is hot and foaming add the spinach and gently heat until the leaves have wilted and keep warm.

To make the parsley sauce, place the milk and the next five ingredients in a small pan, bring everything slowly up to simmering point, then pour the mixture into a bowl and leave aside to get completely cold.

When you're ready to make the sauce, strain the milk back into the pan, discard the flavourings, then add the flour and butter and bring everything gradually up to simmering point, whisking continuously until the sauce has thickened and is smooth and glossy. Then turn the heat down to low and let the sauce cook gently for a few minutes, stirring from time to time.

To serve the sauce, add the chopped parsley and cream, taste and season, then serve in a warm jug. Serve the fishcakes on a bed of spinach and pour the parsley sauce overtop.