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How to make fish cakes and Hollandaise sauce

12 June 2020

And for dessert, demerara meringues with summer strawberries


LOCKDOWN living (is that a hash­tag?) encourages inventiveness in cooking with whatever we can find. It has also reminded me of ratio cook­­ing, as in when you have X of this then you need Y of that.

If you poach some salmon in fish stock or court-bouillon and then have leftovers, for Fishcakes, fold the flaked salmon into an equal quantity of mashed potato (no butter or milk). As a guide, 650g (1 lb 6 oz) fish plus 650g potato makes four large cakes. Season to taste with a cou­­­­­ple of table­spoons of tomato ketchup, 3 tea­spoons of mustard, 1 ta­­ble­­­­spoon each of capers and chopped an­­chovies, and season. Once formed, refrigerate. To cook: dredge in flour, fry briefly to colour, then bake in the oven at 200°C/400°F/Gas 6 for about 20 minutes.

It is good news that markets are reopening to give us access to sea­sonal produce. And eggs have re­­turned in steady supply. To make Hollandaise sauce, which goes so well with fish cakes, just take two egg yolks and, in a double boiler, or a bowl over simmering water, slowly whisk in 3 teaspoons of cider vinegar with a pinch of salt until fluffy. Then 180g (6 oz) unsalted butter, either melted or very soft. Keep whisking until everything has come together and is a lovely yellow hue. Grind in some black pepper, then lemon juice to taste (as much as 2 tablespoons). As it cools, it will thicken to a may­onnaise consistency.

The two egg whites can become these Demerara meringues. Whisk with an electric beater in a bowl with a pinch of cream of tartar until firm peaks form. Now add 60g (2 oz) caster sugar and beat to the glossy stage. Add a further 30g (1 oz) sugar and beat a little more so that the meringue is stiff and dense. Now fold in 45g (1½ oz) demerara sugar. Drop them into six nests or blobs on a baking tray lined with parchment, and place in the oven at 100°C/225°F/Gas ¼ and bake for up to three hours. They keep in an airtight container for a couple of weeks.

Serve the meringues with any fresh fruit, but especially Summer strawberries. As Wimbledon is can­celled this year, we must all do our bit to consume the spare 33 tonnes they usually get through. A 350g (12 oz) punnet is just enough for two. Wash and hull the berries and mac­erate in a bowl for at least an hour, either with the juice of half a lemon and a couple of sprigs of thyme, or try a few basil leaves with a couple of teaspoons of balsamic vinegar.

Grilling them is also an option; so macerate each punnet with a knob of preserved ginger and two ta­ble­­spoons of Pimms (or orange juice). Place the strawberries stalk-side down in a baking dish, pour over any juice from the bowl, scatter with caster sugar, and flash under a grill for five minutes or so. The tips will start to blacken and the fruits begin to approach collapse. Cool slightly be­­fore serving with thick cream, mer­­ingues, shortbread biscuits, even rice pudding — whatever is to hand.

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