Cod Cakes in Tomato Sauce
With their sweet and slightly sharp sauce these fish cakes, typical of Syrian Jews, manage to capture much of the spirit of Sephardi food. They are delicate, almost brittle and thus very comforting and very popular, perfect for a large family gathering where there are many, often fussy, diners to please. The cakes are almost better the day after they are cooked; just remember to bring them back to room temperature or warm them up before serving. Serve with bulgar, rice, couscous or bread, alongside sautéed spinach or Swiss chard.
|3||slices white bread, crusts removed (about 60g in total)|
|600g||cod (sustainably sourced), halibut, hake or pollock fillet, skinless and boneless|
|1||medium onion, finely chopped (about 150g in total)|
|4||garlic cloves, crushed|
|30g||flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped|
|30g||coriander, finely chopped|
|1 tbsp||ground cumin|
|2||large free-range eggs, beaten|
|4 tbsp||olive oil|
|For the tomato sauce:|
|2½ tbsp||olive oil|
|1½ tsp||ground cumin|
|½ tsp||sweet paprika|
|1 tsp||ground coriander|
|1||medium onion, chopped|
|400g tin||chopped tomatoes|
|1||red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped|
|1||garlic clove, crushed|
|2 tsp||caster sugar|
|2 tbsp||mint leaves, roughly chopped|
|Salt and black pepper|
You will need a food processor.
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 a teaspoon 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 along with the bread and everything else, apart from the olive oil. Mix together well and then, using your hands, shape the mixture into compact cakes that are about 2cm thick and 8cm wide. The mixture should make 8 cakes. If they are very soft, refrigerate for 30 minutes to firm up. (You can also add some dried breadcrumbs to the mix, though do this sparingly; the cakes need to be quite wet.)
Heat up half the olive oil in a frying pan and sear the cakes for 3 minutes on each side, so that they colour well on both sides. Add the remaining oil as you fry the cakes.
Place the seared cakes gently, side by side, in the tomato sauce; you can squeeze them a bit so they all fit. Add just 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.