Holy Mackerel Fishcakes!

There are some things that call themselves a cake when they really have no right to at all.

I like liquorice but still remember the disappointment of my first ever Pontefract cake. I think I thought it would be Eccles-y. 

And I have a softspot for Kendal Mint Cake so never mention the obvious when it's around, but we all know its not-a-real-cake status is the elephant on the hiking trail. 

Fishcakes however, I’m fine with. I think because it’s become one word and therefore one concept: a fishcake, rather than a "fish cake”. Which would be disgusting. Although doubtless "anchovy baba" one will appear as on some ambitious chef's tasting menu before too long.

mackerel fishcakes, samphire salad
samphire salad

Anyway. I made this for dinner last night with a pleasingly seasonal ("pleasonal"?) warm salad: Samphire, asparagus and tomatoes dressed simply with olive oil, lemon juice and a pinch each of salt, pepper and sugar. Also a spoonful of mayonnaise mixed with a teaspoon of chopped capers to make a sort of tartare sauce.

It was nice. Not as nice as a real cake, but I hear they are frowned on as a main course option. 

mackerel fishcake ingredients
mackerel fishcakes

Mackerel Fishcakes


  • 300g fresh mackerel fillets
  • 1 large floury baking potato (eg King Edward, Deriree or Maris Piper)
  • 1 tbsp grated creamed horseradish
  • small bunch chives
  • handful of flour
  • 1 egg
  • splash of milk
  • 2 handfuls of breadcrumbs


  1. Grill or fry the mackerel for a few minutes on both sides until just opaque and cooked through. Set aside until cool enough to handle.
  2. Chop the potato into even pieces and boil until tender. Drain and let it sit in the colander for a few minutes so it dries out a bit.
  3. Remove the skin from the mackerel fillets (it should come away easily when scraped with a sharp knife) and flake the flesh into a mixing bowl. Mash the potatoes and add them to the bowl along with the horseradish, finely chopped chives and salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Mix the fish and potatoes together. Be gentle so the pieces of mackerel don’t get too mushed up. Shape the mixture into four round, flat cakes.
  5. Put the flour on one plate, the breadcrumbs on another and beat the egg with the milk in a  small bowl.
  6. Dip each “cake” into the flour so it is very thinly but evenly coated. Then into the egg -  again a thin but even coat, just to moisten it slightly. Lastly into the breadcrumbs which should form a more generous layer.
  7. Either fry over a medium heat in a tablespoon of sunflower oil until golden brown (approximately five minutes each side) or bake in a 200C/gas mark 6 oven for 20 minutes, turning once.
  8. Serve with salad or peas and tartare sauce.

Ifs And Ands

  • Use smoked, peppered mackerel in place of fresh with a spoonful of Dijon mustard instead of horseradish.
  • Salmon fillets would also work well with dill instead of chives.
  • If using a strongly-flavoured, smoked fish, try sweet potato as the mash component and a spicy salsa instead of tartare.
  • The breadcrumb coating can be livened up with seeds, oats or or grated parmesan cheese.
  • Mix cooked peas and shredded fresh mint into the fish and potato mixture.