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.
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.
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.
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.
- 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
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- Give the fish filets a rough chop and add the processor. Pulse until the fish is finely chopped. Remove to the mixing bowl.
- 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.
- Pulse the parsley and cilantro until finely minced and add them to the mixing bowl.
- Add the cumin, salt, and beaten eggs to the mixing bowl and combine everything well. Make sure it's thoroughly and evenly mixed.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Turn off the heat and let sit for 10 minutes.
- 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.