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This recipe is taken from Yotam Ottolenghi’s cookbook Jerusalem and is one that shouldn’t be missed.
Ottolenghi’s recipes usually require many steps, but I can tell you firsthand, they are well worth it. This dish has delicious Middle Eastern flavors and is in an aromatic tomato sauce. Besides, you can make the tomato sauce ahead of time like I did!
This recipe is even more flavorful the next day and is delicious served over rice, couscous or bulgar. Comfort Food with a Middle Eastern flair!
First make the tomato sauce. Heat the olive oil in a very large frying pan for which you have a lid. Add the spices and onion and cook for 8-10 minutes, until the onion is completely soft. Add the wine and simmer for 3 minutes. Add the tomatoes, chili, garlic, sugar, ½ tsp. of salt and some black pepper. Simmer for about 15 minutes, until quite thick, Taste to adjust the seasoning and set aside.
While the sauce is cooking make the fish cakes. Place the bread in a food processor and blitz to form breadcrumbs. Chop up the fish very finely and place in a bowl with the bread and everything else, except the olive oil. Mix well and then, using your hands, shape the mixture into compact cakes, about 3/4 inch thick and about 3-1/4 inches in diameter. You should have 8 cakes. If they are very soft, refrigerate for 30 minutes to firm up. (You can also add some dried breadcrumbs to the mix, though do this sparingly: the cakes need to be quite wet. Heat half the olive oil in a frying pan over medium high heat, add half the cakes and sear the for 3 minutes on each side, until well colored. Repeat with the remaining cakes and oil. Gently place the seared cakes side by side in the tomato sauce: you can squeeze them a bit so they all fit. Add just enough water to partially cover the cakes, about (about a scant 1 cup). Cover the pan with the lid and simmer on a very low heat for 15-20 minutes. Turn off the heat and leave the cakes to settle, uncovered, for at least 10 minutes before serving warm or at room temperature, sprinkled with mint.