The Mint Shop

The Mint Shop

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Fish cakes in Suffolk

For our anniversary we decided to go down to the coast and enjoy the colours and smells of the sea. So after an evening in Brighton (do all stag and hen nights happen there?!?) we ended up at my in-laws' for a few days. They live on the south coast near Chichester where apparently the weather is particularly mild (and that might explain the number of pensioners who migrated there).

To pay our stay we thought of cooking for R's parents (and use them as our guinea pigs as I hadn't tried this recipe before!). Fish cakes. The combination between the softness of the crab and the sweetness of the salmon with the kick of the horseradish is fantastic. Why is it called horseradish? Horses eat it?....

The recipe would like a couple of chillies but as Russell's mother seems to have an aversion against them, which she justifies with a stomach ache, we decided not to include them. However, please do add one or two (depending on the quantity you are making) as I think they give the cakes that subtle kick that washes your palate off the oiliness of salmon.

For 4 people

> 200g crab meat (it works also if comes out of a tin); 200g salmon (idem); 1 medium potato; 3 tbsp hand-made mayonnaise (or a good quality one); 2 handful of mixed herbs like dill, parsley, chive; 2 chillies; 2 stbsp of Dijon mustard or 1 tsp of English mustard (English can be so powerful that one tea spoon is more than enough...last time it made me sneeze for 5 minutes!);

> 1 egg yolk; olive oil; half the juice of a lemon; 4 gerkins; fresh horseradish (this might result particularly tricky as it seems that almost no groceries now sell it - if desperate, you can use horseradish from a jar); 1 tpsp capers; salt & pepper.

> 200g spinach;
>200g new potatoes


1. Cook the potato and mash it; mix it with the other ingredients (crab, salmon, chopped herbs, etc) and make some small patties.

2. Make the tartare sauce. Beat the egg yolk adding the juice of the half lemon, and slowly incorporating the olive oil (this can be daunting at first, but all you need to do is to be patient and make sure you drop the oil a little at the time to make sure it is absorbed rather than having two layers of unrelated ingredients!), add a bit of salt and leave to rest. Chop the gerkins, the capers and grate the horseradish, and mix them to the mayonnaise.

3. In the meantime cook the new potatoes aside.

4. Pan fry the cakes until they are gold and crispy, and add a splash of white wine that will evaporate quickly but will leave a nice flavour.

5. When the cakes are almost ready, drop the spinach leaves in a pan of boiling water so that they wilt and they toss them gently in the same pan where the cakes had been cooking until then (you have obviously removed the cakes from the pan!), dressing with some salt and olive oil, and a touch of chilli.

6. Serve the cakes on the plate with the spinach on one side, the new potatoes on the other side (well I leave the artistic arrangement to you), and a generous dollop of tartare sauce on the fish cakes. You can squeeze a little of lemon onto the cakes before eating it.

We ate our fish cakes in the kitchen, perched on metal stalls, and with the windows open, drinking a chilled bottle of Vermentino.

During our mini-holiday on the Sussex coast, I decided once more to try to read "The Sea, the Sea" by Iris Murdoch. I must confess that if you go over the first 200pages when the main character describes in detail his meals, you will not put it down until you have finished!

It is the diary that a retired play-writer and theatre director, Chalres Arrowby, writes at his house by the sea, "Shruff End", which is dilapidated and with no electricity. But it is remote enough for him to enjoy a quite life and escape the glitzes of the West End ; at least this is what he wrongly thinks as a steady stream of visitors, mostly non gratiae, crowd his place.

The book is captivating, vivid, and a real page turner. I found it quite hilarious, if not grotesque at times, with some over-dramatic scenes. I liked how Charles Arrowby slowly realises that he was drawn to the sea as the mother of all nature, calming and soothing as he is in search of a banal, quite life; however, until one has not accepted oneself, the surrounding nature will only mirror inner feelings of those who are plunged in it. And so does Iris Murdoch's sea. It becomes absorbing and dangerous, until Charles has accepted that after all quietness comes with acceptance and contempt of what is owned.

I liked particularly this short description of the sea:

"the sea is noisier today and the seagulls are crying. I do not really like silence except in the theatre. The sea is agitated, a very dark blue with white crests."

If you happen to be on the Sussex coast, I would suggest to visit Bosham.
Ahh the pronunciation is important! It is not, as you would expect, Bosham with aschh sound but Bosham with a som sound, effectively as if you were sayingbosom! I remember it as R's parents made me repeate the word at least five or six is the way people from Sussex pronounce it!

It is true that it consists of only three roads, a church, and a little port with its front, but the whole atmosphere is so retro and stylish that makes you feel like eating scallops with a spoon and buying a fishing net to catch crabs with the children perching over the commons' wall.

You might even end up there when that magnificent house overlooking the estuary is on sale....good luck!


  1. I scrolled through your blog. Great pictures! And, some very interesting recipes. I'll be watching for your posts through google reader.

  2. Thank you Gale! I gave a look at your website and I appreciate your comment even more coming from you! Your photos are beautiful!! Where do you live? It would be nice to meet at some point, I live in Cambridge.