In a twist to the classic fishcake these crisp-shelled cakes hide a melting interior of thick, smoky béchamel sauce. They are no more hassle to make than the potato and fish versions but you need to allow several hours for the sauce to cool before shaping into cakes. I make the fish base the day before so it is really firm and easy to coat in egg and breadcrumbs. I double dip the cakes (that is coat them in egg and breadcrumbs) to ensure that they don’t ooze when fried. It may seem a bit odd that the fish is not pre-cooked but, given that the fish is finely diced, it cooks in a jiffy in the sauce itself.
- For the fishcakes
- ½ onion, peeled
- 1 bay leaf
- 450ml whole milk
- 150ml double cream
- 65g butter
- 125g plain flour
- 450g undyed, skinless smoked haddock fillets
- 15g chives, finely chopped
- 4 large eggs, beaten
- 200g panko breadcrumbs
- Oil for shallow frying (about 300ml)
- For the watercress sauce
- 85g watercress
- 5 tablespoons mayonnaise
- 5 tablespoons crème fraiche
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- Place the onion and bay leaf in a saucepan and pour over the milk and cream. Slowly bring to the boil then take off the heat and leave for 30 minutes. Strain the milk and discard the onion and bay leaf.
- Melt the butter in a medium-sized saucepan and stir in 70g flour. Cook over a moderate heat for 1 minute then gradually stir in the flavoured milk. Cook, stirring for 2 minutes. The béchamel should be really thick and smooth. Add the smoked haddock and cook for a further 4 minutes. Take off the heat and stir in the chives. Taste and season with salt and ground black pepper. Spoon the mixture into a bowl and leave to cool. Cover with cling film and refrigerate for at least 3-4 hours or overnight.
- Shape the fish mixture into eight cakes. Place the remaining 55g flour in a shallow bowl, the beaten eggs in another bowl and the panko breadcrumbs in a larger bowl. Dip each fishcake into the flour, followed by the egg and finally roll in the panko. Dip into the egg again followed by a second coating of panko. Place on a baking tray. Repeat for the remaining fishcakes. Heat the oven to 200˚c, fan oven 180c, mark 6.
- Heat the oil in a frying pan and fry the fishcakes for 2 minutes each side. I cook four at a time so as not to overcrowd the pan. Place on a baking tray and cook in the oven for 8-10 minutes until the centres are piping hot. Serve with the watercress sauce.
- For the watercress sauce, blanch the watercress in boiling water for 20 seconds. Drain and immediately plunge into ice cold water. Leave for 5 minutes then drain. Squeeze out as much liquid as possible then place the watercress in the small bowl of a food processor. Add the mayonnaise, crème fraiche and lemon juice. Process to a purée. Spoon the sauce into a bowl and chill until ready to serve.