Monday, 15 April 2013

Bengali-style tuna fishcakes or macher chop

Several years ago I said in a blog post that I'd write about Bengali fishcakes or macher chop, but never quite got round to it. But as it's now Bengali new year, this seems an opportune moment to make good on that ancient promise.

These fishcakes would traditionally be served with dahl and rice, as a sort of 'first course', but a few are substantial enough to form the centre of a main meal. They are also pretty frugal, as they are made with tinned tuna and some other bits and bobs. You could of course use any firm fish, but for some reason it's always been tinned tuna in my household. Making the mix up in advance, and cooking it the next day, also adds to the convenience factor. This is also one of those recipes that can be adjusted to taste, so do change the amount of spices or chilli to suit.

Recipe (enough for around 12 depending on size):

1 medium potato, chopped up and boiled
2 tins (185g) of  tuna chunks, drained
3 tblsp cooked frozen peas
1 medium onion
A large thumb-sized piece of ginger
4 medium cloves of garlic
2 whole green chillis
1 tblsp sultanas (optional)
2 tblsp salted peanuts, roughly chopped or 1 tblsp crunchy peanut butter
Around 3 tblsp chopped corriander leaves
2 tsp garam masala
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp salt
1 egg, beaten (plus another if needed)
Fresh or dried breadcrumbs
Plain oil for shallow frying

Start by making a paste with the onion, garlic, ginger, and chilli. My trusty Kenwood mini chopper does this in a few seconds, but you could pound it all by hand if needed. Mash the cooked potatoes until they are relatively smooth, then add the onion paste, tuna, coriander leaves, peanuts, sultanas, spices, and egg. Finally put in the peas, and give everything a good mix so it's well combined. You should by now have a mixture that can be easily formed into small-ish fishcake shapes (either flat or tubular work). If the mixture is relatively wet, this surface moisture should be enough to get the breadcrumbs to stick to the fishcakes. But if that isn't happening, then lightly dip them in a bit of beaten egg before rolling in breadcrumbs. You can then put the fishcakes in the fridge (on a clingfilm-ed plate) until needed. This also helps them firm up, and not fall apart while frying, so I'd recommend you do this if possible.

Heat enough oil to generously cover the bottom of a flat plan, and when it's hot (but definitely not smoking) carefully slide in the fishcakes. Cook them in batches until they are golden brown, which should take a few minutes on each side. They are a bit delicate, so do exercise caution when turning them. Drain them on some kitchen roll, and prepare to tuck in. These fishcakes also re-heat really well, either in a non-stick pan, under the grill, or in the oven, so can easily be made in advance. And I'll be seeing the new year in with some shortly.