Much of my not-much French has been built up thanks to Tintin and Asterix. The learning process all happened ‘some time ago’, but recently I’ve been reminded of how much I enjoyed assimilating the language thanks to Tintin because he popped up to brighten a grey, raining day as I was walking down the Rue de l’etuve in Brussels the other day. I remembered him with such affection that a few months later I went to the Tintin exhibition at Somerset House in London. Next stop on a return trip to Belgium will be the Musée Hergé.
In fact, my affection is not so much for Tintin – a sober and sensible character – as for his irascible sidekick, Captain Haddock. Like his pal, Haddock has a heart of gold and is always willing to help but he’s also prone to sudden fits of temper peppered with creative, politically-correct expletives… ‘Tonnerre de Brest!’ he cries at any unexpected reverse, adding, equally articulately, ‘Moules à gaufres!’…or, when speaking English, ’billions of blue blistering barnacles’ or ‘ten thousand thundering typhoons’. Haddock’s translator and I both share an unreined delight in alliteration.
In any case, Captain Haddock is a delicious mix of roughness and tenderness and I think he deserves a recipe in his honour.
So here we go. The dish must contain haddock of course. Then for roughness – some panko breadcrumbs… maybe even some chopped nuts. For tenderness… some soft, comfortable mash.
Haddock’s fishcakes make a fulsome lunch or light supper dish served with a green salad or a rough guacamole. They also make a good starter – but in that case make them half the size.
You can make these ahead to the pre-frying stage, refrigerate and cook just before serving.
Recipe for Captain Haddock’s rough and tender fishcakes
- 260g/9 oz skinless, boneless haddock fillets
- 330g/11 oz mashed potato (by far the easiest method is to make How to make your instant mash a state secret – use half the quantity and save the rest to fry for lunch with a fried egg or two) You can make the mashed potato while the fish is roasting to save time if you like. You’ll need instant mashed potato, a stock cube, lots of milk and butter and some garlic.
- 4 tbsp/60g/¼ cup ricotta or thick yoghurt if you have it
- 1 tbsp finely chopped nuts – optional
- 25g/1 oz chives
- 2 eggs, beaten in a wide bowl
- 20g/½ cup panko breadcrumbs
- 1 tbsp capers – the type preserved in salt (not brine) and thoroughly rinsed
- 6 tbsp plain flour (about 45g) – seasoned
- Smoked salt if you haven’t already added to the mash
- Indonesian long pepper
- Butter and rapeseed oil mix for frying
- 1 lemon or lime
- Garlicky, lemony mayonnaise – lots
- Preheat the oven to 210°C
- Wrap the fish fillets loosely in oiled foil, close up and roast for just over a quarter of an hour – until the fish is no longer translucent. Make the mashed potato
- Stir the ricotta (or yoghurt) and the capers into the mashed potato.
- Snip over the chives, season and stir
- When the fish is done, take it out of the oven, open the foil packet, leave to cool a little and then flake.
- Stir the fish in to the mashed potato and then a little of the beaten egg – just enough to get the whole thing to bind together.
- Form the mixture into potato cakes and make yourself a production line of cakes, plate of seasoned flour, wide bowl of beaten egg, plate of Panko breadcrumbs and chopped nuts if you are using.
- Coat the first cake in the flour, then egg, then breadcrumbs – repeat for the others. At this stage you can put in the fridge for a day or so until you want to eat them.
- Get a mix of butter and rapeseed oil hot in a big frying pan, fry the cakes on both sides until golden
- Serve with lemon or lime wedges and the mayonnaise