Friday, February 10, 2006

fish cakes

Key words:

The flathead tails from the market sat in the fridge with dreams of being a thai curry. Sometime in the afternoon dinner for 2 turned solo and creative energies were sidetracked into my first foray in consulting a builder about renovating the house. For far too long I have cooked in something that is barely a kitchen – a cranky stove, a sink at dwarf height (thankfully I am only a smidge over being a midget), a total lack of storage or bench space. Worst of all no adequate room for a table big enough to sit around with friends and enjoy long meals. The dynamic design and build duo filled my heads with amazing possibilities that involved ‘rearranging my envelope’ so to speak, or more niftily how I can do more without actually knocking down the back and getting building permits, a huger mortgage and other such inconveniences.

By the time I was left to my own devices my mind was spinning. A curry was not going to be made because I wanted food and I needed it now. I looked at the flathead and thought “its fish, its fast” while the seafood addict cat almost knocked me over with enthusiasm. The feline got sashimi and I the speediest fish cakes on the simplest salad.

Quick Thai Fish Cakes
Fish fillets
Good quality red (or whatever colour you prefer) Thai curry paste
A slurp or two of fish sauce
A spring onion, sliced

Place the above ingredients in a food processor and whiz. Reserve half the spring onions to throw in for the final pulse, so they keep their shape.

Now I know some of you are going to comment as to quantities. The amount of paste depends on the strength you are using. Some of the more gourmet ones you get in punnets from the chiller I find are quite oily and sloppy and don’t always pack much of punch. Desired quantity of punch depends on the individual. I use about 1 tsp of Mae ploy red curry paste/per 100 g of fish.

How much fish you need, depends on whether this is finger food to have with drinks (roll into balls and serve with some good quality chilli sauce for dipping), entrée (smallish discs) or in this case main (mini burger size). For a main count on about 200-250g fish per person depending on appetite.
With damp hands shape into desired size and shallow fry in a mild oil (raw sesame, peanut etc) til golden on each side.

I served this on a huge bed of rocket with diced tomato, cucumber and a little chilli as a relish. The rocket was otherwise naked, but the juices from the fish cakes gave it a delightful flavour.

As I cleaned up I picked at the residue left in the pan. It tasted all caramalized and amazing, and my head spun with thoughts of deglazing..with what? Rice vinegar perhaps and then what? But I was too tired for such flights of fancy.

Though surprisingly a while later I found myself a tad peckish. In 30 seconds a couple of yellow peaches were halved, dotted with a bit of organic butter and sprinkled with brown sugar. The sat under a hot grill for about 6 minutes and were unbelievably fabulous. Why on earth hadn’t done this before? I took a modest bow.

* variations – chopped snake or round beans are probably more traditional than spring onions. Fresh ginger or chilli can be good too to give it a kick. Tofu, squeezed out and crumbled can be combined with the fish to double the mixture when you need it to go further (trust me, the don’t notice).

I had a little of the uncooked mixture left over. The next night I looked for some fish stock in the freezer but was out of it - so just simmered a bit of ginger, chilli, shitake mushroom, spring onions and green beans in water, with fishcake mix rolled into balls. At the last minute I added some fresh rice noodles. I tasted the broth expecting it to need lots of seasoning but the fish cake flavours had come through strongly - it just needed a dash of fish sauce. A wonderful easy spicy fish ball soup with noodles.

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