Fiskekaker... now we are really talking about true Norwegian food! Every person in the country has some story about this dish, whether they love them or hate them (most fall in the first category). These “fish cakes” or fish patties as I will call them here, are incredibly satisfying and so delicious, I like to call them “fish sticks for adults”. They are a way for even the pickiest eater to actually LOVE fish, and provides a multitude of ways people can enjoy them. Have them with a poached egg for breakfast on an open faced sandwich, have one as a snack in the afternoon stuffed in a pita with some tzatziki (Greek yogurt cucumber dip), have them for dinner, either with a shredded carrot salad and boiled potatoes (recipe to follow), or even with gravy and mashed potatoes, or as a late night snack in a burger bun with caramelized onions, bacon and tomatoes. Mmmmm….
There are many Norwegians who also disagree with me – they have issues with the texture and the taste of fiskekaker, but in my opinion they just haven’t had the PERFECT fiskekake. I also find that most people who criticize this wonderful dish have only tried the store bought version. Don’t get me started! Store bought means bland, mealy, mass produced without love, and awful. Home made is always the way to go ! You will see below how easy these are to make, no excuse to opt for a processed, manufactured option. A balance of spices, fish to milk ratio and proper ingredient combination, are all parts of a successful recipe.
Growing up in Norway, fiskekaker was something that signified “every day life” in my family. My mom would typically make these sometime during the mid- week, either if she had leftover fish from another meal, or she had visited the fishmonger in Ålesund (the closest city to our hometown). She would make a huge batch and freeze some for a future dinner, and as far as I can remember, they tasted just as good then. My dad would often request “fiskekaker” – a true, Norwegian meal, in his opinion. Being a very old school, traditional man, he would often sneer when my mom would dare make spaghetti or even pancakes for us for dinner. That modern ‘fluff’ was not proper food for real men. Hence, fish cakes held up the standard in the Hjorthol household!
Fiskekaker is also a great way to make your kids eat fish, if they otherwise don’t or won’t. Add some chopped onions, garlic and additional spice to make this into fun hamburger patties, place in a bun and serve with a salad or coleslaw.
Image : http://www.aperitif.no
I also like to add the fish cakes in a sandwich, with lettuce and tomato and perhaps a remoulade dressing. Delicious!
Below is a recipe for the traditional fiskekaker my mom got from her mom, and I’m sure her mom got it from her mom.. Food and recipes stay for generations and Norway is no exception. I’ve spoken with many food lovers in Norway with the same exact story – remembering with fondness their grandmother’s beloved fish cakes. Here I want to keep tradition going, giving you the standard way we enjoyed them (approved by my dad) – accompanied with the standard shredded carrot salad boiled potatoes. Healthy and flavorful, just the way my mom made them!
BESTEMORS FISKEKAKER (Grandma’s Fish Cakes)
1 lb cleaned fish (haddock, cod, pollock, or coalfish)
2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 tbs cornstarch
1 1/2 cups milk
2 tbsp melted butter
3 tbsp minced chives (optional)
1/8 tsp nutmeg
Place the fish in food processor with salt and pulse until you have a rough paste. Add in the other ingredients by hand, using the milk as needed and knead until everything is well combined. Using a spoon, shape into patties and saute them in saute pan on medium-high heat until golden brown, about 2-3 minutes on each side. Serve with my mom’s special carrot salad (see below for recipe) and boiled potatoes for a traditional fiskekake dinner!
note: Some people like to add mackerel into fiskekaker, along with a white fish. The fatty mackerel adds a desired unique flavor, richness, and depth to the patties making them even more delectable. Professional chefs may add some crab meat into the fiskekaker, as well as other exotic ingredients such as lime juice, curry paste, ginger, etc. making them more Thai inspired. The options are endless!
GULROTSALAT (Carrot Salad)
4 large carrots
1 cup sour cream
2 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp white vinegar
Shred the carrots using either a box grater (largest setting) or food processor. In a big bowl, add the sour cream, sugar, vinegar and combine. Add the grated carrots, season with salt and pepper to taste. You can also omit the sour cream for a lighter version. Adding in some shredded turnips or pickled cucumbers is also a nice touch.
Image : Freshcut.no