My mental picture of Ireland includes green rolling hills, green pastures, greenstone houses and the occasional peaceful lake. I don’t immediately think of the ocean, but Eire is an island, after all, and most of the Irish recipes handed down through my family involve fish. I learned this recipe “by hand”, that is, I watched someone make it and then joined in. I don’t have precise amounts for the ingredients, but it’s a peasant dish and the measurements aren’t critical to having a good meal out of it. The recipe is also a little more complicated than I would generally make for a weeknight dinner – lots of pans and dishes complicated. On the other hand it’s cheap and absolutely wonderful. You have been warned.
You’ll need a potato ricer and: 1/2 pound white fish (I use haddock); 4 medium or 5 small boiling potatoes (I like Yukon or Caribe); 4 C chopped spinach (about 1/2 pound fresh); 3 green onions, chopped; scant 1/2 C matzoh meal; 2 large eggs, beaten; salt and pepper, oil and butter for frying. This amount serves 2, generously.
Peel and cut the potatoes into chunks and cook until done – you’ll want them uniformly soft for ease of ricing. Drain them in a colander so that they cool a little and won’t cook the eggs when you add them later. In a 10″ skillet poach the fish in water with a little white wine and lemon juice until opaque and flaky. I like to drain and cool the fish on a cake rack so that it doesn’t add too much additional water to the mix. In another large skillet saute the green onions until soft and add the spinach and cook until quite done. You can add a 1/2 tsp sesame oil at this point if you like. I”m pretty sure my ancestors did not. Dump the spinach and green onions into a large bowl.
Clean up all the dishes and pans and let everything sit and cool off for a minute. Now rice the potatoes into a another large bowl and let them stand. Flake the fish off the cake rack into the bowl of spinach (nicely cooled so that it doesn’t overcook the fish. My ancestors were a patient people, at least when it came to fishcakes). Add the beaten eggs and mix gently and not too thoroughly, add the matzoh meal the same way. Season with a 1/2 tsp salt. Add this mixture to the riced potatoes and mix until you can pick up spoonfuls of more or less cohesive batter on a large spoon.
Heat the large skillet with oil and 1 Tbsp of butter. Drop large spoonfuls (about 1/4 C) of the mixture in the pan, fry until browned, flip over and squash with the flat of the spatula. Repeat until done. I remember meals of just fishcakes – vegetable, starch and protein all-in-one – but I like these with a green salad and a piece of soda bread full of whiskey-soaked currants and caraway seeds. And the new Betterbee catalog. Paradise!