The first Friday of Lent. The perfect excuse to post a fish recipe. Growing up in a Catholic household my mother made sure we always observed the no meat on Friday rule, taking the opportunity to serve up fish for dinner. Almost religiously (excuse the pun). Not just on Fridays through Lent but every Friday of the year.
Rumour has it that the no fish on Friday rule was originally introduced by a powerful medieval pope to support an ailing fishing industry. Thus beginning a religious observance of abstinence practised by millions of Catholics world wide, over many generations. It is hard to believe in this day and age that anyone could introduce a rule that could have such a profound and long reaching effect on global economics. I remember hearing this story from one of the nuns at school, so to my childish ears of course it had to be true. The rules were relaxed centuries later, sometime after Vatican II in the 1960’s. Sometimes, however, old habits die hard. By then the fish on Friday rule was so well and truly ingrained in the routines of so many households, including ours, it continued to live on despite any changes in Church rules.
Personally, I love seafood and somehow don’t manage to get it to the table as often as I would like. Not surprisingly Lent is the perfect excuse to now put more fish on my family’s plate. For old times sake I’m aiming to do this every Friday up until Easter. Looking back through my blog I noticed I adopted a similar approach last year and have already posted most of our favourite family recipes
More Fish on Friday.Tray Baked Blue Eye Cod Wrapped in Prosciutto With Sun Dried Tomatoes and Basil.
To kick-start this year’s Fish on Fridays challenge? Spicy Thai Style Fish Cakes. Served with a Nam Jim dipping sauce and a very simple Cucumber and Bean Sprout Salad. This meal looks impressive but is very quick and easy to make with the help of a trusty food processor. The fish cakes are simply blitzed in the food processor, shaped into balls and rested in the refrigerator before shallow frying. I also prepare my Nam Jim dipping sauce in the food processor although I am sure that traditionally it is pounded with a mortar and pestle.
Be warned. On its own the Nam Jim dipping sauce definitely has a powerful kick. Fortunately, however, when paired with the fish cakes it is subdued a little. Our palates are well accustomed to spicy food so heat is not a problem in our house. An easy compromise? Just use a little less chilli when making the dipping sauce, and allow diners to adjust the heat to personal taste by serving any remaining minced chilli on the side. The salad makes an interesting accompaniment to round off the meal. So refreshing, crunchy and light, it’s often a regular fixture at barbecues and family gatherings.
Spicy Thai Style Fish Cakes
Makes 18-20 small fish cakes
750g white fish fillets (I used snapper), skinned, boned and roughly chopped
3 tablespoons red curry paste
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 teaspoon shaved palm sugar or brown sugar
4 kaffir lime leaves, finely shredded
finely grated zest of 1 lime
2 long green spring onions, finely sliced
½ cup green beans, finely sliced
peanut oil, for frying
PLACE the fish fillets, curry paste, egg, fish sauce and sugar into the bowl of a food processor and pulse until the mixture becomes smooth and sticky .
TRANSFER the mixture into a medium bowl and add the very finely sliced beans and spring onions, shredded lime leaves and finely grated zest of one lime. Stir well to combine.
LINE a tray with baking paper.
SCOOP out a quarter cup measure of the fish mixture at a time. Using damp hands divide the scoop of mixture in half and roll into two evenly sized ball. Repeat until all the fish mixture has been used. You should have 18 – 20 balls. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or until needed.
HEAT about 2 cm of peanut oil in a wok. The oil is ready for frying when a small cube of bread dropped into the oil sizzles immediately.
REMOVE the fish cakes from the refrigerator. Gently flatten each ball into a disc and fry in batches over medium-high heat for 2-3 minutes each side, until crisp and golden. Drain on paper towels.
SERVE with Cucumber and Bean Sprout Salad and Nam Jim Dipping Sauce.
Cucumber and Bean Sprout Salad
2 large Lebanese cucumbers, sliced into long thin ribbons with a vegetable peeler
3 cups bean sprouts, trimmed
2 long green spring onions, thinly sliced
1/4 cup small fresh coriander leaves
1/4 cup small fresh mint leaves
1 long red chilli, deseeded, thinly sliced
2 teaspoons palm sugar, shaved (or substitute brown sugar)
2 teaspoons rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 tablespoon peanut oil
PLACE the cucumber, bean sprouts, spring onion, coriander, mint and chilli into a large bowl.
WHISK together the palm sugar, rice wine vinegar, lime juice, fish sauce and peanut oil in a small bowl or jar until well combined.
ADD dressing to the salad and toss to combine. Serve immediately.
Nam Jim Dipping Sauce
6 long red chillies, seeded and roughly chopped
1 red birds eye chilli, seeded and roughly chopped
2 long green spring onions, roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1 coriander root, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon shaved palm sugar or brown sugar
freshly squeezed juice of 4 limes
1-2 tablespoons fish sauce
PLACE the chillies, spring onion, garlic and coriander root into the bowl of a food processor and pulse to a fine paste.
STIR through the palm sugar, lime juice and fish sauce. Taste for a balance of sweet, sour and salty flavours, adjusting as required.