I have never come to terms with cake made from carrots. Such root vegetables were very popular as sweetening agents in the 18th century but even Marie Antoinette had more sense than to attempt to appease the ravenous sans culottes with carrot cake. There is something uneasy and inappropriate about the liaison of cake and vegetables. It surprises me that the Lady of Shallot never wrote a cookery book as, being a member of a branch of an ennobled vegetable family, carrot cake would most certainly have been among her signature dishes: such eccentricity could have been expected from a dotty aristocrat of the noble Onion family.
Cake and fish can only be described as a combination devised by Dante for those condemned to the innermost circles of hell. Butter, sugar, eggs and flour can never benefit from the addition of fish even in the minds of the maddest of the mad. However, unlike the carrot cake and Marie Antoinette, the fish cake has a sense of humour which is its salvation.
Cake is a misleading word in English as it can refer to many things that I consider to be very uncakey: a cake of soap would be a shining example of uncakiness. Fish cake should be the apotheosis of uncakiness, except for shitcake. Shitcake is a mushroom that is found under cowpats and sensibly renamed shitake for commercial reasons – true or false? Back to fish cakes.
The good fish cake is made with good ingredients as is the case with all good food. Crap fish cakes are universally available, as are all crap products, but ill advised. The cakes in the picture were made from salmon, anchovies, parsley, butter, potatoes and seasoning.
The salmon was lightly poached with some salt and pepper corns. Whilst the fish rested in its warm bath, freshly boiled potatoes were passed through a potato ricer, then seasoned with salt and white pepper and lubricated with butter and cream. I had earlier gathered some flat parsley from a patch behind the cottage where it springs from the gravel each year. The parsley was washed, chopped and added to some chopped fillets of anchovies. Large flakes of the cooked salmon are roughly mixed with the mashed potatoes and parsley anchovy mixture so that the pink and green of fish and parsley bejewel the warm yellow mass of buttery mash. Take a handful of this amalgam of good things and form it into a ball, flattening the top and bottom to make it into a “cake”, and dusting it lightly with seasoned flour. If all the ingredients are still warm, as they ideally should be, the cakes will need no more that 2 or 3 minutes cooking, on each side, in a frying pan….preferably in good olive oil. We serve them with a salad of peppery rocket leaves and if a sauce is required, I would recommend Lea & Perrins Worcestershire Sauce or Watkins Anchovy Sauce…..