Saturday, June 21, 2008

Why I still think Delia is cool

I know Delia has gotten a bit of bad press lately in the UK over her use of pre-packaged food, going from 'cooking' to opening packets and 'assembling', but if we gloss over that phase and hark back to all the good things she has done, then on balance she is still a legend. I bought her 'How to Cook' (book one) last year after 'discovering' it in a friends bookshelf. It was published in 1999, so is fairly old, and I think I remember looking at it all those years ago and thinking it was a bit too 'beginner' for me. (There obviously wasn't a t.v. series shown here to accompany the book!) How wrong could I be? Once I opened the pages I was drawn in and couldnt put it down. All sorts of things that I just took for granted about cooking were explained and suddenly many of the nebulous pieces of my cooking ability puzzle started fitting together! The section on eggs was a revelation. At first I thought, how condescending, how much does one need to know about eggs, but it turns out there is plenty to be learned!!!! I won't bore you with the details, lets just say my 'techniques' have sharpened quite a bit!
There are lots of really old fashioned favourites, one of the absolute winners (and worth the purchase of the book alone) are these Salmon Fish Cakes, served with Parsley sauce. They are a bit fiddly with the dipping in egg and breadcrumbing, but honestly worth the effort. Delia says that tinned red salmon is really the best option for them, not to go using the fresh stuff. Which makes this a reasonably priced meal and one that has become a bit of store cupboard staple, as I almost always have all the ingredients in my pantry.
The parsley sauce is fabulous, infusing the milk first with lots of flavour takes it to a whole new level, and again, is worth the effort.
My family adore this meal, even though my son hates tinned fish, he eats this no problem. I am looking forward to the next time I get a smoked fish delivered by my brother-in-law, as I think that would work very nicely too.
I will often plan to make these when I am having a meal with mashed potato, making extra all at once to use the next night for these. Every now and then if I have left over vege I will puree them up and add in too (for this one I had carrots, brussels and peas which I added in and they were fabulous- even better that the kids didn't know!!!!)

For the fishcakes:

15 oz (425 g) tinned red salmon
10 oz (275 g) Desirée or King Edward potatoes, peeled and cut into large chunks

2 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 heaped tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
2 heaped tablespoons salted capers or capers in vinegar, drained and chopped
6 pickled gherkins (cornichons), drained and chopped
2 large eggs, hard-boiled and chopped small
1 level dessertspoon anchovy paste or 4 anchovies, mashed up

2 tablespoons lemon juice
¼ level teaspoon powdered mace (optional)
¼ level teaspoon cayenne pepper
salt and freshly milled black pepper

For the coating and frying:

a little flour for dusting
1 large egg, beaten
3 oz (75 g) matzo meal or fresh white breadcrumbs

about 2 tablespoons groundnut or other flavourless oil

about ½ oz (10 g) butter

First of all boil the potatoes in salted water for about 25 minutes or until they're absolutely tender when tested with a skewer. (Be careful, though – if they are not tender you will get lumps.) Then drain the potatoes and mash them to a purée with the mayonnaise using an electric hand whisk, then add some seasoning.
Now, in a large mixing bowl, simply combine all the ingredients for the fishcakes together. Mix
really thoroughly, then taste and season again if it needs it. After that, allow it to cool thoroughly, then cover the bowl and place it in the fridge, giving it at least 2 hours to chill and become firm.
When you are ready to cook the fishcakes, lightly flour a work surface, then turn the fish mixture
on to it and, using your hands, pat and shape it into a long roll, 2-2½ inches (5-6 cm) in diameter. Now cut the roll into 12 round fishcakes, pat each one into a neat, flat shape and then dip them, one by one, first into the beaten egg and then into the matzo meal (or breadcrumbs), making sure they get a nice, even coating all round.

Now, in a large frying pan, heat the oil and butter over a high heat and, when it is really hot, add half the fishcakes to the pan, then turn the heat down to medium and give them 4 minutes' shallow frying on each side. Then drain on crumpled greaseproof paper and keep warm. Repeat with the rest of the fishcakes, adding a little more oil and butter if needed. Serve immediately on hot plates with the English Parsley Sauce, sprigs of parsley and some lemon wedges.

English Parsley Sauce

15 fl oz (425 ml) milk
a few parsley stalks
1 bay leaf
1 slice onion, ¼ inch (5 mm) thick
1 blade of mace (also optional)
10 whole black peppercorns
¾ oz (20 g) plain flour
1½ oz (40 g) butter
4 heaped tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon single cream
1 teaspoon lemon juice
salt and freshly milled black pepper

Place the milk and the next five ingredients in a small pan, bring everything slowly up to simmering point, then pour the mixture into a bowl and leave aside to get completely cold.
When you're ready to make the sauce, strain the milk back into the pan, discard the flavourings, then add the flour and butter and bring everything gradually up to simmering point, whisking continuously with a balloon whisk until the sauce has thickened and is smooth and glossy. The
n turn the heat down to its lowest possible setting and let the sauce cook gently for 5 minutes,
stirring from time to time.

To serve the sauce, add the chopped parsley, cream and lemon juice, taste and season, then serve in a warm jug


hungryandfrozen said...

They look delicious! Had fishcakes myself on Friday night. One of the best things to do with a can of fish.

Anonymous said...

Hey, this is a great recipe! I have to try it. I just got some new potatoes from a friend's garden.

Thanks for the recipe!


Georgina Ingham | CulinaryTravels said...

I love fish cakes and parsley sauce, especially when they're served with extra fluffy boiled potatoes; these look mouthwatering.

Rhyleysgranny said...

These look lovely Linda. I have always liked Delia. I have had her complete cookery course for many years and as you have discovered she is great for reference.

My Sweet & Saucy said...

Those salmon fish cakes look great!