Harissa fishcakes

Spicy fishcakes with sweet apricots coated in fragrant pistachios. Good fresh mackerel has very rich, almost creamy, meaty flesh and it pairs well with slightly tart fruit (and I don’t just mean a quick squeeze of lemon juice). I once had mackerel fillets with rhubarb, which was delicious, even if it does sound like something a pregnant woman would be craving. I’ve used dried apricots in these, obviously to help keep the mixture dry, but also because I think they have the right balance of tart and sweet. Trust me, it works.

Adding pistachios to the breadcrumbs for coating adds a tiny touch more sweetness and also a really nice crunch (don’t grind them too finely).
I’ve been a big fan of harissa since I travelled to Tunisia (blimey, about 15 years ago now I think about it!) as it brings more than just heat to a dish. Although mackerel can take the heat it’s nice to add a bit more depth than just a chili smack in the mouth.

It’s a good idea to keep the mash for fishcakes as dry as possible so I use mayonnaise rather than milk to provide a little moisture and flavour.

spicy mackerel fishcakes

Makes 6-8
600g potatoes
350g cooked skinless mackerel fillets
75g dried apricots
2-3 tbsp harissa (depending on how spicy you like things)
2 tbsp mayonnaise
1/2 onion
salt and pepper
1 egg (beaten)
3 tbsp flour
6-8 tbsp panko bread crumbs
40g pistachios (ground in a food processor)
oil for frying

Bring a large pan of water to boil and cut the potatoes into large chunks. Add them to the pan and boil them until they are tender but not breaking up, about 10 minutes. Drain them and then return them to the hot pan to allow them to dry out a little. Add the mayonnaise, harissa and the salt and pepper and mash them with a fork until they’re smooth and fluffy. Leave the potato to cool.

Harissa fishcakes
Finely dice the onion and fry it in a little oil or butter until it is tender and just starting to brown.
Finely chop the apricots and mix these and the onion into the potato. Flake the cooked mackerel, leaving it quite chunky and fold this into the cooled potato mixture.
Use 3 shallow dishes and add the flour to one, the beaten egg to another and the breadcrumbs and pistachios to another.
Divide and shape the fishcake mixture into even sized patties. Coat each one in the flour, then the egg and finally the breadcrumbs and then place them on a baking sheet and chill them in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
Heat a couple of tablespoons of oil in a frying pan and fry the fishcakes over a moderate heat for a few minutes on each side, until they are crisp and golden and warmed through to the centre.

I submitted this recipe to one of The Guardians weekly reader recipe swaps (and it won) and they suggested serving them with a sauce made of tahini, mayo, harissa and lemon juice.

Harissa fishcakes