When I think back on my school days gone by, apart from memories of my friends and teachers; laughter and fun on the playground; the other most memorable moments are of school lunches. I guess even back then, at a young age, I had an interest in food. Of course, most memories are just plain bad, because let’s face it, school lunch is pretty awful even today. My children always complain about the awful smells that emanate from their cafeterias but what’s really sad is that Boulder Valley schools have the better school lunches! Their meals are all sourced locally and are organic. Even then, my children refuse to eat their cafeteria food and I have to make packed lunches every day.
Still, some of the best puddings and desserts I remember are from my school days. There were a few mains that I enjoyed; the fried fish on Fridays with chips and peas was always a favourite. My elementary school lunch was awful though. The convent had the food catered from a school lunch caterer, I believe and it was just disgusting. The days we had boiled Brussels sprouts were intolerable; even to sit in the classroom with that smell was a punishment, let alone eat them at lunch time. It is only recently that I have started making Brussels sprouts. The memory of the stinky, boiled ones from school turned me off them for years. Thinking back on it, since our nuns were the sweetest people I ever met and were never harsh or berated us in any way, I believe their secret weapon of choice for punishment was food!
One such punishment were these fish cakes. Whether there was any actual fish in there or just fish essence (they smelled like fish) is debatable; all I know is that they left a lot be desired. I guess this fish cake idea was the caterers way of up scaling the humble fish finger…like 8 year olds really care! Whatever the reasoning behind serving fish cakes to a bunch of primary children, all I can remember is that they were pretty awful, but disturbingly edible.
At this point everyone is wondering why I would want to relive the punishment by recreating these fish cakes. Like I said, they were edible…meaning they were not good but you didn’t mind eating them! I wanted to upgrade their quality a bit and add another seafood dish to my repertoire. My full intention was to post this for Lent but all the other fun holidays got in the way so by the time I had made the desserts for Valentine’s Day, Almond Kulfi and Lemon Mascarpone Roulade, the poor Cod Cakes got left on the shelf. These were too good not to share and I didn’t want to wait till next Lent to share them.
I got a great deal on some good looking, fresh wild caught cod fillets but I have also made these before with good quality, olive oil packed, tinned tuna. They too came out great. I served them with a lovely spring greens salad with blackberries, red peppers, and cucumbers and………sautéed Brussels sprouts!
I highly recommend using Panko crumbs rather than ordinary breadcrumbs. I have used regular breadcrumbs before and the Panko just elevate these Cod Cakes to another level. They are crisp, light and perfect; nothing like my school lunch.
3 large baking potatoes, peeled and cut in chunks
11/2 lbs/680g wild cod fillets, sustainably caught
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, split between fish and sauté
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 red bell pepper, finely chopped
1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons parsley, finely chopped
salt and pepper
2 cups(approx) Panko breadcrumbs
1/2 cup(approx) plain flour, to dust
1 egg, beaten to coat cakes
oil for frying
Preheat the oven to 400℉/200℃
Drizzle the cod fillets with two tablespoons olive oil and sprinkle with paprika, salt, pepper and garlic powder.
Place in the oven and bake until the cod is cooked through and flakes, about 10-15 minutes.
Set aside to cool.
Boil the potatoes until tender and then drain and mash them
Set aside to cool.
Heat the remaining two tablespoons of olive oil and sauté the red bell peppers, onion and garlic.
They just need to be softened a little, no need to brown, about 10 minutes.
Put aside to cool.
Once all the separate components have cooled, break up the fish into small chunks and add to the potatoes.
Add the sautéed peppers and onions, draining out the oil if necessary.
Season with salt and pepper.
Add the cayenne pepper for a little spicy kick, can leave it out if desired.
Mix in the parsley.
Gently mix and knead the mixture together and portion out into 12 balls.
Shape them into little cake shapes and chill for about 15 minutes.
Take out the chilled cakes and bread them before frying.
Dust the cod cakes with flour first, then dip in the egg and then cover with the Panko.
Repeat with the rest of the cod cakes and let them sit on a rack before frying.
Heat the oil in a large skillet.
We don't need to deep fry, just a 1/2 inch/2 cm oil will suffice.
We just need to shallow fry till the Panko is golden brown and the cakes have heated through.
Once the cakes are golden brown on each side, drain on paper towels or a wire rack.
Eat while warm.
What do you remember about your childhood school lunches or any other food related memory? Have you been able to eat foods you hated as a child, as an adult?
Wishing everyone a fabulous, sun filled weekend!