Thursday, 14 August 2014

Thai Crab Cakes or Fish Cakes with Sweet Chilli Sauce and Fresh Pickled Vegetable Relish - includes Thermomix method

One of my favourite Thai dishes, and so versatile - a dinner, a starter, a snack, a buffet dish...

Fish cakes are one of the iconic street food dishes of Thailand, and they're delicious dipped into a piquant sauce. I think my favourite thing about Thai fish cakes is the fact that there's no filler in there - no bread crumbs, or potato - they're just pure, delicious un-stodgy protein! Here I've given them a little twist, by replacing some of the raw fish with crab meat, and lightly pan frying them and finishing off for a few minutes in the oven rather than deep-frying them - but you're welcome to deep-fry them if you prefer... I think they're really good cooked this way though, and somewhat healthier.

Thai Crab Cakes

This recipe makes around 20 to 25 fish cakes, and serves four to five as a main course (there are four of us including two children, 10 and 11 with hearty appetites - I made twenty, and we had five left over) - obviously it would serve far more as a starter (divide the mix into 24, and you'll have three each to serve eight people), and would make a great warm buffet dish. The secret is not to overcook them - you want a nice, light, dare-I-say-it almost slightly 'bouncy' texture. They really are deliciously tasty - no wonder they are so popular! They even freeze well, either raw or cooked (I prefer to freeze them lightly cooked, for ease) - just defrost and re-heat or cook lightly.

If you're counting calories, then the calories per serving if divided between five people are as follows:
Fish Cakes - 142; Pickled Vegetable Relish - 50; Sweet Chilli Sauce - 48; Total calories - 240. (You can take off 30 if you leave out the peanuts, and add on 76 for a 200g portion of cauliflower rice, or 149 calories per serving for a portion of Thai Jasmine rice (45g uncooked). 50g mixed leaves is around 10 calories). [Calories in square brackets next to ingredients]

For the Fish Cakes
  • 380g white fish fillets (e.g. sustainable cod, haddock, pollack etc. – frozen is fine as you’re going to mince it - you could use salmon too for more calories, or a mixture) [360]
  • 1 can crab meat (120g drained - you can double this and reduce the fish accordingly, or omit the crab if you prefer and use 500g fish) [86]
  • 4 level 15ml tbsp (about 60g) red curry paste (home-made - see here for my recipe, or Thai Taste is a good brand - add up to six tbsp, or to taste if you like it spicy) [50]
  • 60g green beans (snake, French, fine, string or similar), very finely sliced (about 1-2mm thick) [15]
  • 1 large fresh red chilli, de-seeded (optional, to taste) [7]
  • 2 tsp fish sauce (check gluten free) [5]
  • 1 medium (UK 58g) egg [88]
  • ½ teaspoon salt (start with a pinch to taste)
  • 1 tsp sugar (palm, or soft brown, if you have it, golden caster will do if not) [16]
  • Zest of one lime, grated (or 3 (double) kaffir lime leaves, finely chopped) - and cut the lime into wedges to serve [1]
  • Pure oil spray (pump action, e.g. Bertolli) to fry in, if you're counting calories (if not, use coconut / sunflower / macadamia vegetable oil to shallow fry): Each time, heat up a good non-stick pan, and spray with 8 sprays the first time, then 4 sprays for each subsequent batch and add 5-7 fish/crab cakes. This will mean cooking the fish/crab cakes in four batches. [80]

For the Fresh  Pickled Vegetable Relish (optional)
  • 1/2 to 1 large fresh red chilli, de-seeded (optional, to taste) [7]
  • 2 small shallots, or use a couple of spring onions [7]
  • 1 small to medium carrot (60g) [16]
  • 60g cucumber, de-seeded (about 3") [7]
  • 75ml rice wine vinegar (check ingredients if cooking GF) [11]
  • 1 x 15ml tbsp fine sugar (e.g. golden caster - you could substitute palm, or honey if you prefer) [48]
  • 25g roasted peanuts, roughly chopped (about 2 tbsp, optional) [152]

For the Sweet Chilli Sauce (optional, or you can use bought)
  • Half a large red chilli pepper (use a whole one if you want it more spicy), deseeded and cut into chunks [3]
  • Half a red bell pepper (around 65g), deseeded and cut into chunks [20]
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled [6]
  • 50g golden caster sugar [200]
  • 50ml rice wine vinegar (check ingredients if GF) [7]
  • 50ml water
  • 1 tsp light soy sauce (or tamari if GF) [3]

Serving Suggestions
Fresh dipping sauces and/or pickles as above (or serve with a bought Thai sweet chilli dipping sauce if you would rather not make your own); fresh salad including leaves, julienned carrot and/or courgette, shredded cabbage, sliced cucumber, radish etc. and rice, or rice noodles (or cauliflower rice, courgette/zucchini 'noodles') if serving as a main course - don't forget to add calories for the rice and salad. Or you could go for a bit of fusion and have it all in a wrap with some salad!

Thermomix speeds and timings in italics If you are serving with the fresh pickled vegetable relish and/or the sweet chilli dipping sauce, then it is easiest to prepare them first, giving the vegetables time to pickle, and the chilli sauce a chance to cool down while you make the fishcakes.

Pickled vegetable relish
Prepare the pickled relish first by finely chopping the chilli and shallot, which you can do in a food processor (TM drop onto running blades, speed 8), then either slicing up the carrots and cucumber after cutting them into quarters lengthwise first, or giving them a quick pulse in the blender until they're a chopped into a coleslaw kind of texture (TM Speed 4 / 1-2 seconds, then scrape down and repeat if necessary). Mix with the vinegar and sugar and set aside in a non-reactive dish (not metal). When serving, sprinkle with the chopped peanuts, if using.

Sweet chilli sauce
Make the sweet chilli sauce, if using - for the method, click here. Set aside to cool. Serve in little dipping pots if you have them (or you could 'make them' from halved scooped-out tomatoes, or cucumber cups! Cut a tiny slice from the bottom of the tomato so it doesn't roll over. For cucumber cups cut a slice about 1.5 inches thick and scoop out the middle, leaving some on the base) or you could drizzle the sauce over the fishcakes.

To make the fish cakes

If you wish, you can make these ahead of time, and pop into the pre-heated oven when you're ready to dish up.

Pre-heat your oven to gas mark 7 / 220C / 200C Fan oven ten or fifteen minutes before you're ready to cook your tray of pan-fried fishcakes (depending on your oven).

Quite simply, cube up the fish (semi-frozen can make this easier if you have time to pop it into the freezer for half an hour first, although it is fine not to do this) and mince in a food processor or blender until evenly chopped (Thermomix Speed 4 / 1 minute, scrape down then Speed 4 / 10 seconds) then just mix all of the ingredients (except the oil) together (TM Reverse Spoon / Speed 3 / 10 seconds, scrape and repeat), then either divide into 20-24 balls with wet hands, and flatten into patties, approximately 5cm wide and 1cm deep OR you can just add spoonfuls of the mix straight into the pan if you prefer (see below). If you want to pre-shape them, I find putting them on a board covered with cling film, or silicone-coated baking paper means that they won’t stick.

If you want to go for a less messy alternative, you can use a couple of spoons. I find a soup spoon is just about the right size - get a heaped spoonful on it, then use a second spoon to round off the top then scoop off the soup spoon into the pan and give a light pat down so it lies flat. It's a lot easier than it sounds, you soon get the hang of it, and you get reasonably uniform sizes.

Personally, before I go any further, I take a tiny teaspoon of the mix, cook it in the pan, and taste it for salt and heat etc. - at this point, you still have the opportunity to add extra salt or curry paste, if you think you need it. If you should find it is too salty for your taste, you can add a little sugar to balance this out - but remember you're probably going to eat them with a sauce which is sweet, or a relish which has a sweetness to it too, and all together, it will taste good.

Once you're ready to cook your fish cakes, get a good non-stick heavy-based pan on the go (if you have one, and if you’re not deep-frying them!), and once it is hot, give about 8 pumps of oil spray onto the pan (or add a couple of tbsp oil if you're not counting calories), and add around 5 to 7 fishcakes, or however many is comfortable without crowding the pan.

Turn after a couple of minutes, once they've started to turn a little golden, and cook the other side until just gently golden (they will finish cooking through in the oven, and you don't want to overcook them). Transfer to a large baking tray lined with greaseproof baking paper, and then spray the pan with another four sprays, and repeat until you have used up all the mixture, making sure there is a little oil in the pan for each batch.

When you're ready to cook your fish cakes, put the tray into your pre-heated oven, on a shelf near the top for about 10 minutes until cooked through. Serve up hot, and enjoy! They will also freeze and re-heat well. (I tend to freeze just cooked through, so that there's no mistakes made defrosting and re-heating them).

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