Tuesday 17 July 2012

Five loaves and two fish? Piece of (fish)cake

Astonishingly we were both home this evening.

Actually, even more astonishingly, we arrived, separately, on the same Driven with Pity Line train. What miraculous mystery was this? Now as two seasoned atheists one would expect that we would ignore this and put it down as some untold coincidental mystery borne of happen-chance and probability.

Or was there some mysterious force at work.

Take dinner for instance. We'd talked about having fish cakes, actually, it had turned in to some Pavlovian cliché where each mention, or recipe, would have us salivating at the very prospect of something fishy and cakey. And tasty. Which will be why at lunchtime I was trotting off down Portobello Road in search of fennel, tomatoes, spring onions, Maris Pipers and other such rare delights.

Meanwhile, over in Holborn, my lovely flatmate had managed to catch mackerel. Now this surprised the hell out of me. I didn't even know she could fish! And I was quite impressed at the quality of her vacuum packing. Quite versatile.

A rare combination, we were both foraging for the same meal.

So going back to the train. I had been passing idle time planning how much I could get done before the capricious one would descend on Contrary Towers like a ravenous locust in search of sustenance. And this is what I was pondering as she materialised beside me as I left the station. Oh.

She moves in mysterious ways.

Well that was the plan scuppered, we were going to have to cook... Together. Gulp.

The ingredients.

Apologies for the actual weights, somebody was finicky about it not being too out of balance.

  • 150g Freshly caught mackerel from the drains in Holborn. Or Waitrose if you're not in Holborn
  • 3 decent spuds, which, my my scientific process of guessing was about 300g
  • 3 Spring onions, chopped within an inch of their life
  • The remainder of a bag of frozen sweetcorn after discovering we actually didn't have any frozen peas. How did that happen?
  • Fennel seeds, crushed, goodness knows how many I wasn't paying that much attention
  • Fennel, use enough. Pfft, maybe about a third of the one we had
  • Tomatoes, nice ones that have been to finishing school and help charities
  • 3 slices of bread hacked and grated in to crumbs
  • Some plain flour
  • Some blood from Clare created when grating. This might be a tricky ingredient, you may have to find a substitute
  • Olive oil
  • Sea salt
  • Vegetable oil
  • Pepper
  • Cayenne pepper
  • Butter
  • Egg. One.
  • Wild rocket. Calm rocket might do
  • No lemons. Because I forgot to get them, but would have been really nice on the fennel. Pfft.
  • One kitchen
  • One bottle of pink fizz
First divide your kitchen in to two zones with the hob as a demilitarised zone in case of, well, skirmish. I chose the right, my flatmate the left. I peeled and chopped the spuds in to itsy little cubes for quick cooking. The fennel and tomato were for oven roasting, these were sliced, sprinkled with sea salt and bunged in the oven with a little olive oil at, well I have no idea of the temperature so we'll call it 200c, for an amount of time that would be dictated by how long it would take to make the fish cakes. Meanwhile she chopped the spring onions in to little slices, took half of the carefully caught fish, tore it in to pieces as she cackled evilly and then mixed together with the spring onion and sweetcorn. Adding ground black pepper to taste.

As the spud was cooking the egg was whisked for binding, whilst suitable plates were laid out to hold the flour, mixed with cayenne pepper, and breadcrumbs. Oh yes, the breadcrumbs. I'm not sure exactly what the grated hand adds, but it has to be the magic ingredient .

At this point things got a little tetchy, the question being who would actually ball and bind. Kinky. Now I'm not silly and know just what dangerous territory I was in, we never cook together for a reason as we are both control freaks. We discussed, but not resolution was found...

So I drained and mashed the now done spuds. These were allowed to dry a little before mashing to keep a potato as dry as possible and we even had a little bit of butter! We were finally ready to actually combine the fish cakes. Oh dear.

Fortunately, my flatmate is brilliant and she came up with a simple solution, we would open a bottle of pink fizz which would distract me long enough for her to make the fish cakes! Hurrah. The mixture was turned in to a tasty size ball, dipped in flour, then in egg and finally breadcrumbs.

Out of our original fish and loaves, and maybe potato, we now had 12 huge fish cakes. That is almost enough to feed 5,000 and, I think, might go to show that there is some truth in the tale. It's just nobody mentioned in the bible they were making fish cakes.

Finally. Frying time. We used whatever was in the bottle of vegetable oil, heated it until dropping a breadcrumb in made it sizzle and then... Cooked two fish cakes at a time in the oil until they were a suitably gorgeous colour.

Once all twelve were done, the tomatoes and fennel from the oven were split between the plates, an amount of writes-letters-to-The-Times rocket was added and, with great occasion, three fish cakes were added to the plate.

We took our collective fare out on to the balcony, sat at our table and... Scoffed the lot. It was wonderful, it was nice to actually sit out there, and nice to have winez, but the food was gorgeous. The only downside was...

...Maybe two would have been enough.

I felt bloated. Happily so.

We knew though that post dinner we would go for an evening constitutional. At least that was the plan. One of us did not look happy. I believe the phrase is petulant teenager. I reasoned, something I am rarely do, that the walk would do us good. Trouble was, the weather gods were now bored and decided to play out one more biblical story...

Oh yes, we went out, two by two and... Were soaked almost as soon as we crossed Stink House Bridge. Great. Even I wasn't dumb enough to keep going, so we walked back really quickly. And then ran. I. Never. Run.

Oh dear.

So. We ate too much. And we had winez. And we did virtually no exercise. Quite bad for the diet then. I ought to maybe mention that my flatmate did run to work this morning, all four and a bit miles, so maybe she was entitled to claim she'd done a bit of exercise. I did point out that my client is eight miles away, but she wasn't buying this, something about me having used the underground. Some people have no sense of adventure.

Most importantly though, we laughed. A lot. And on top of such a fabulous meal I'd say that this is a pretty good thing.

That and we have fish cakes for lunch.

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