It is probably worth prefacing this post with an admission. On Monday, deadened by the return to work and toothache, I misread Jamie's book. This happens from time to time, thanks to my habit of reading cookery books while I dry my hair every morning at 7 am. At that time, I am still half asleep and only half-focused; this is considerably worse on a Monday morning, when I can't quite believe the weekend has ended so abruptly, and even more so this Monday. Anyway, cold and achey and a bit grumpy on Monday morning, I skim-read Jamie's recipe for poached salmon and picked up only the last paragraph, where Jamie offers suggestions as to what to do with your poached salmon - flake it into mashed potato with parsley to make fishcakes, into farfalle with peas and cream, blitz with creme fraiche and lemon juice to make pate, and so on. Immediately I assumed that these were the end result of the recipe and began to fantasize about fishcakes; I hugged the prospect of comforting fishcakes to me all day as I re-immersed myself in the working environment I had temporarily forgotten. When I got home and re-read the recipe, I realized that the first and clearly main suggestion is to eat the poached salmon with the vegetables it was poached with. I know that sounds obvious and I sound deranged for not even imagining it; well, guilty as charged. I could of course have abandoned the fishcake idea at that point, but I couldn't, not really; my mouth was craving fishcakes. So I give you: Jamie's poached salmon steak, with one of his suggested variations - that is, salmon fishcakes.
I did do everything Jamie said in the recipe (I am an obedient sort of person, really). I put chopped fennel, carrot, onion, celery, tomatoes, thyme, bay leaves, parsley, white wine, white wine vinegar, salt and pepper, water, and beetroot, into a large saucepan, filled it up with cold water and brought to the boil. I added the salmon and when the water was boiling again, simmered for 5 minutes on the heat before turning off the heat and letting the fish sit in the liquor for another 5 minutes for the residual heat.
I then drained the water and flaked the fish into the potatoes I had boiled and mashed, with parsley. I served with broccoli and mayo gently spiked with lemon, just because I like lemony mayonnaise.
This dinner was as comforting as I had imagined all day, the food equivalent of a hug. I should say that lots of fishcakes involve breadcrumbs or polenta crusts, or Matzo meal in Nigella's storecupboard tinned salmon fishcake recipe from Nigella Bites. The guru of comfort food, Nigel Slater, wrote somewhere that fishcakes don't need this crust, and I tend to agree; while the crust is lovely, fishcakes are delicious as they are. Everyone likes fishcakes, even people who don't like fish all that much, or so my experience tells me. I am glad I misread the recipe on Monday morning, because I couldn't have imagined anything more reassuring than the fishcakes we ate on Monday evening, while the wind raged around the roof (literally) and we returned to a normal routine.