As summer turns to autumn and we all get used to the chill in the air, nothing beats a nice warm, hearty meal in the evening. But rather than settling for old favourites like stews and baked potatoes (not that there’s anything wrong with these classics!), we’ve decided to be a bit more adventurous as the seasons change. Confident that Yotam Ottolengi wouldn’t disappoint, I turned to his Jerusalem cookbook that’s just brimming with inspiration.
Every time I go for ‘a quick flick through’ Jerusalem I always end up sidetracked, (sometimes for hours) by the beautiful images, presentation, interesting anecdotes and completely foreign ingredients I’ve never come across. This time was no different, but one recipe in particular stood out as perfect for a hearty but healthy September supper; Ottolenghi’s codcakes in tomato sauce. Here’s how it’s done:
white bread, crusts removed 3 slices
cod (sustainably sourced), halibut, hake or pollock fillet, skinless and boneless 600g
medium onion 1, finely chopped
garlic cloves 4, crushed
flat-leaf parsley 30g, finely chopped
coriander 30g, finely chopped
ground cumin 1 tbsp
salt 1 tsp
large free-range eggs 2, beaten
olive oil 4 tbsp
For the tomato sauce
olive oil 2 tbsp
ground cumin 1 tsp
sweet paprika ½ tsp
ground coriander 1 tsp
medium onion 1, chopped
white wine 125ml
chopped tomatoes 400g tin
red chilli 1, deseeded and finely chopped
garlic clove 1, crushed
caster sugar 2 tsp
mint leaves 2 tbsp, roughly chopped
salt and black pepper
First make the tomato sauce. Heat the olive oil in a very large frying pan for which you have a lid, and add the spices and onion. Cook for 8-10 minutes, until the onion is completely soft. Add the wine and simmer for 3 minutes. Add the tomatoes, chilli, garlic, sugar, ½ tsp of salt and some black pepper. Simmer for about 15 minutes, until quite thick, taste to adjust the seasoning and set aside.
While the sauce is cooking make the fish cakes. Place the bread in a food processor and blitz to form breadcrumbs. Chop up the fish very finely and place in a bowl with the bread and everything else, apart from the olive oil. Mix well and then, using your hands, shape the mixture into compact cakes, about 2cm thick and 8cm wide. The mixture should make 8 cakes. If they are very soft, refrigerate for 30 minutes to firm up. Heat up half the oil in a frying pan and sear the cakes for 3 minutes on each side, so they colour well.
Add the remaining oil as you fry the cakes. Place the seared cakes gently, side by side, in the tomato sauce. Add enough water to partially cover the cakes, about 200ml. Cover the pan with the lid and simmer on a very low heat for 15-20 minutes. Turn off the heat and leave the cakes to settle, uncovered, for at least 10 minutes before serving warm or at room temperature, sprinkled with mint.
Notes from a greedy sister
I’ve never made fishcakes before and was completely apprehensive, but these were absolutely delicious. The codcake mixture was very soft and loose as it went in the frying pan, but they managed to hold together, so don’t be afraid!
I served these with my favourite boiled grains from France (the staple ‘Ebly’ grain), but you could use any sort of wheat, couscous or rice.
If you have any left, these are perfect for lunch the following day, as the flavours seem to intensify in the fridge overnight. I was too greedy to wait for the microwave, so I had my leftovers cold with more grains and a side salad – delicious.