Ottolenghi's Cod Cakes in Tomato Sauce is an earthy, comforting meal with a Middle Eastern flair! ~

Ottolenghi’s Cod Cakes in Tomato Sauce is an earthy meal of tender fish cakes tucked into an aromatic sauce.   Serve it with couscous and sauteed spinach…this is comfort food with a Middle Eastern flair.

Ottolenghi's Cod Cakes in Tomato Sauce ~ earthy comfort food from my favorite chef! ~

When I’m at a loss for what to make for dinner I often turn to my well worn copy of Jerusalem.  It’s one of 2 cookbooks that has the honor of sitting out on my kitchen counter 24/7.  It never lets me down, and tonight’s meal is unusual and delicious.  Fish cakes are a favorite of ours, and lots of cultures have their own version of this frugal dish.  This one comes from a Sephardic Jewish tradition and is flavored with wonderful Middle Eastern flavors like cumin, coriander, cilantro and mint.  I can always count on Ottolenghi to give me a meal with complex layers of flavors that I haven’t experienced before.

Ottolenghi's Cod Cakes in Tomato Sauce from Jerusalem ~

This recipe has two parts ~ the sauce, and the cakes ~ and you can do either or both of them ahead of time and cook it off when you’re ready.  Ottolenghi claims these get better the next day.  I’ll let you know, we’re having the leftovers tonight :)

TIP: There is a bit of chopping to do in this recipe, so do yourself a favor a get out your food processor to make quick work of it all.  No need to rinse the bowl between uses.

Ottolenghi's Cod Cakes in Tomato Sauce ~

The best fish cakes are so tender they fall apart at the touch of your fork (or spatula,) so you’ll need to treat these gently.  They start their life as a wet mixture of fish, bread crumbs, eggs, and lots of herbs and spices.  Then they gently poach in the most luxurious tomato sauce ever.

TIP: Ottolenghi suggests serving them with bulgur, rice, couscous, or bread along with sauteed spinach or Swiss chard on the side.  We went with couscous which was perfect for soaking up all that tomato sauce, and frozen spinach…it was a wonderful meal.

Ottolenghi’s Cod Cakes in Tomato Sauce

Ottolenghi’s Cod Cakes in Tomato Sauce


    tomato sauce
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp sweet paprika
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup (125 ml) white wine (I used red because it was what I had)
  • 14 ounce (400g) can chopped tomatoes (I used crushed)
  • 1 hot red chili finely chopped (I used the seeds for added heat)
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 2 tsp sugar (I used 1)
  • a fistful of fresh mint leaves roughly chopped
  • salt and black pepper
    cod cakes
  • 3 slices white bread, crusts removed
  • 1 1/3 (600g) pounds cod, halibut, hake or tilapia filet, skinless and boneless (I used tilapia)
  • 1 medium onion
  • 4 garlic cloves (I used 2)
  • a large handful of flat-leaf parsley leaves,
  • a large handful cilantro leaves
  • 1 Tbsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 large free-range eggs, beaten
  • 4 Tbsp olive oil for frying


  1. To make the tomato sauce, heat the olive oil in a large frying pan and add the spices and onion. Cook for 8-10 minutes, stirring frequently. 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, the sauce will get thick. Set aside.
  2. To make the fish cakes, put the bread in the bowl of a food processor and process until they become fine crumbs. Remove and put into a large mixing bowl.
  3. Give the fish filets a rough chop and add the processor. Pulse until the fish is finely chopped. Remove to the mixing bowl.
  4. Peel and cut the onion into quarters, add it to the processor, along with the garlic cloves, and process until finely chopped, add them to the mixing bowl.
  5. Pulse the parsley and cilantro until finely minced and add them to the mixing bowl.
  6. Add the cumin, salt, and beaten eggs to the mixing bowl and combine everything well. Make sure it's thoroughly and evenly mixed.
  7. Use a 1/2 cup measure to portion the fish cakes. Pack the cup with the mixture, and then tap it out. Gently round the cake with your hands and place on a platter. You should have 7 or 8 cakes in all. Cover with plastic and refrigerate for 20 minutes to allow them to firm up.
  8. Working in batches, heat half the oil in a frying pan over medium high heat and brown the cakes for about 2-3 minutes on each side. Add the remaining oil to fry the rest of the cakes.
  9. Arrange the fish cakes in the tomato sauce. Add about 1/2 - 2/3 cup water to the sauce, and bring the pan to a simmer. Cover, lower the heat and simmer on very low for 15-20 minutes.
  10. Turn off the heat and let sit for 10 minutes.
  11. Sprinkle with fresh mint before serving.


  • Cod and haddock can be expensive and sometimes hard to find.  I used cheaper and more plentiful tilapia and was very pleased with the result.
  • Use a jalapeno pepper if you can’t find a hot red pepper.
  • If your frying pan doesn’t have a cover, use foil. 

Ottolenghi's Fish Cakes in Tomato Sauce is a comforting family meal with a Middle Eastern twist ~


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Ottolenghi's Cod Cakes in Tomato Sauce is a fabulous Middle Eastern meal served over couscous ~

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23 Responses to Ottolenghi’s Cod Cakes in Tomato Sauce

  1. Florentina says:

    This is my kind of meal, how gorgeous, i just wanna admire it for 10 minutes hehe ! Love!

  2. Wow the color on these fish cakes is amazing. I love cod too and cooking the fish in that rich tomato sauce is brilliant. Love Ottolenghi’s recipes! This is a great one – thanks for sharing this beautiful dish.

  3. Just Jo says:

    Me and Hungry Hubby love this recipe and have made it often. Ottolenghi is a fabulous recipe creator but my word, do I reign it in when it comes to the amount of oil he recommends adding to most dishes! Lol, don’t get me wrong, I love a bit of olive oil. Beautiful shots of a great recipe :D

    • Sue says:

      The oil in this one was very low, but I know what you mean…those Mediterraneans love their olive oil — good thing it’s so healthy :)

  4. These looks lovely – Ottolenghi never disappoints! Lovely photography.

  5. oh my goodness- I love this!! I cook fish in a tomato curry sauce pretty often, but I’d love to switch it up! How yummy- I’ll try to make this soon!

  6. An absolutely beautiful meal! Love everything about it :) One of my favourite cookbooks.

  7. This sounds absolutely amazing. I’m definitely going to be trying it.

  8. sippitysup says:

    This is indeed a great recipe. I made it for s dinner party once. It was such a hit. As usual it looks like you’ve done a spectacular job. GREG

  9. cheri says:

    Love Yotam’s recipes, every single one. Will definitely have to try this one. Your presentation is gorgeous Sue, have a great week-end.

  10. Susan says:

    This sounds delicious. I was hoping it was from the Jerusalem cookbook, because that’s the one I have, though I’ve never made anything from it (my cookbooks tend to be neglected because I find so many good recipes on the food blogs I follow…). Now, if only I can convince my husband to eat fish…

  11. Platter Talk says:

    An interesting twist on fish cakes for me, being added to a tomato based sauce in addition to a Mid-Easter flare. Thanks.

  12. What a wonderful recipe! I’ve had fish cakes before, but never had them served in such a delicious looking and well seasoned tomato sauce. LOVE this recipe!

  13. I love Ottolenghi’s recipes too and this one looks amazing! Such lovely flavours and it’s so wholesome too. I like the idea of having the leftovers the next day as well.

  14. Sue, this is an awesome recipe…then again, I love anything Ottolenghi! Beautiful photos!

  15. Rachel says:

    These look wonderful. While I’ve been making my own fishcakes with pre-cooked fish for ages, I’ve only recently started making fish cakes, fish balls etc. with raw chopped fish. Everything in Jerusalem is fantastic, so I must try these!

    • Sue says:

      I usually use cooked fish, too, and I liked that this used raw because they seems fresher and even more tender that way. I so enjoy leafing through Jerusalem, even after years of owning it – thanks for your comment Rachel :)

  16. Ottolenghi comes through again! It’s funny, I have paged through that book many times myself but never noticed this recipe! It looks wonderful and I love the nontraditional (at least for us) combination of spices in the tomato sauce

  17. I am drooling, Sue. Those could have been the prettiest fish cakes I have ever seen and not to mention that they are delicious!

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