Casa del Picky Eaters

Smoked Mackerel Fishcakes with Beetroot-Horseradish Purée

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Wasn’t it summer just a moment ago? Well, not now. Now it’s chilly and damp and we barely see daylight since we wake before dawn and stay in work until long after dusk. No lettuce will enter the house until at least March, and instead meals are earthy and meaty, and mashed potato has become an essential accompaniment.

At the Casa del Picky Eaters, mash causes a bit of a PR problem: B insists that I am being irrational and mean when I suggest that 2 jacket-sized spuds ought to yield enough mash for two adult humans. Left in charge of portion control, he would produce the kind of fluffy mountain on a plate that you see in cookbooks and gravy adverts, and we would both have trouble getting up off the sofa. My solution is to prepare a lot – look! I’ve peeled LOADS! – and freeze half before he’s realised how much he’s actually eaten. And from there it’s dead easy at any time to whip up another great bit of cold-weather comfort food: fishcakes. I like the pepper-coated kind of smoked mackerel especially for this one.

Smoked mackerel fishcakes with beetroot-horseradish purée

Start with one normal sized portion of mash per adult diner, and add to it skinned and flaked smoked mackerel of the variety that you find vacuum-packed in supermarkets. Soften a little chopped onion or leek in a pan, and add it to the fish and potato, along with some fresh or frozen (not dried) herbs of your choice and an egg or possibly two depending in how much you’re making. (Remember, I tend to cook for two). Season with quality sea salt and freshly ground pepper, and combine.

Cover a baking sheet with greaseproof paper and oil lightly. Divide your fishcake mixture into balls that are somewhere between golf and cricket, and flatten slightly into patties on the greaseproof. If you have the time-slash-patience, put them in the fridge for half an hour, and then into a preheated oven around 200 C for about 20 minutes. Turn halfway through, if you remember.

While they cook, roughly chop some cooked beetroot in a pan, add a few spoonfuls of hot horseradish sauce and a little lime juice, and blitz together. If you have fresh horseradish, for goodness’ sake use it, with a little creme fraiche. And I once added yuzu juice instead of the lime but it didn’t quite work.

Serve the fishcakes with the purée blobbed on the top, with whatever veg is lying in the fridge.

Variations: it works with any kind of smoked fish, and given that B professes not to like smoked foods or fish that isn’t some shade of pink, he loves this, so do force it onto the fish-deniers. Add grated cheese to the fishcake mixture, or grated horseradish, or horseradish sauce but watch out for the liquid levels or the fishcakes won’t hold their shape. If you are anti-beetroot, have it with tartare sauce. Or even Heinz Salad Cream! Actually once you’re past the basics of fish and potato there are thousands of possibilities for flavourings and you could takes cues from almost anywhere in the world, but in this instance we’re going for grown-up nursery food, so back away from the cumin and the Cajun seasoning and think blandly reassuring.

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