I am so excited to share this recipe with you all today as I honestly thought it was going to turn into a fiasco but it ended up being one of the best recipes I have ever created! This recipe was based on a traditional Flemish recipe called ‘Paling in’t groen’ or ‘Eel in the Green’. It’s a Flemish regional dish, mainly from the area along the River Scheldt between Dendermonde and Antwerp. The Flemish name refers to freshwater eel in a green herb sauce. The traditionally home-made meal is also sold fully prepared but still uncooked by some fishmongers’ shops or market stalls, and can be enjoyed in specialty restaurants. The traditional recipe requires for the eel to be cut in pieces of about 4 cm each and is then stewed in butter, flour and then served with a delicious green sauce. There are various ways of making this green sauce and although the ingredients vary heavily, they are of course all green. We usually serve this with some Belgian fries or bread and some lemon wedges.
Now as I really don’t like eel I decided to completely change that part of the recipe around and make something that’s more accessible and will generally be liked a bit more: fried breaded cod – potato balls. They are so easy to make and they are absolutely delicious! A crunchy layer on the outside with a soft filling on the inside and a minimal amount of herbs/spices, we only use chives. Why? Well we are serving it with a flavour bomb already so there is no need to add any extra flavours to the fish, as they might end up clashing with the sauce.
I did struggle a little bit when it came to making the sauce, some of the ingredients I really wanted to use were simply not for sale here in Ireland, like chervil for example. So I went for a combination of fresh ingredients: flat-leaf parsley, curly parsley, spinach, basil, mint and a few dried ones: sage, thyme, marjoram, tarragon and bay leaf. However, the key star in this recipe is Kerrygold butter, as I used it in both the sauce (twice!) and the fish balls.
With all that delicious Kerrygold butter in 1 recipe you might wonder why I love it so much? Well Kerrygold to me is simply an absolutely tasty butter and a company that holds tradition heritage in high regard. You see, for over 6,000 years, Irish farmers have been milking cows and producing the finest dairy products. With 17,000 family-owned farms and 36 co-op dairies, three generations working on the same farm together is not a rare sight. Although a lot of farmland is being sold nowadays, a hectare of farmland is still only changed hands once every 400 years.
Apart from hold the quality of the butter, the happiness of the cows and their health in high regards, Kerrygold is also known to acknowledge the talented farmers in Ireland. Each year they give The Kerrygold Quality Milk award to one hardworking farmer/farming family and they celebrate the top quality milk farmers in Ireland. Dairy co-operatives throughout the country are invited to nominate their top suppliers for the awards each year. The farms nominated for the annual awards undergo a detailed assessment by an expert judging panel based on milk quality test results and technical reports spanning a full 12 month period in order to select a short-list of finalists. The top farms are assessed based on Animal health and welfare, Dairy & parlour facilities, pride and passion, continuous improvement, hygiene and sustainability & the environment.
This year’s awards celebrated the heritage that makes irish milk unique as Irish farming is more than just a business, it is a way of life. Irish farmers learn their craft from their parents and grandparents before them. The winners of the NDC & Kerrygold Quality Milk Awards Winner 2016 are Tom and Moya Power, from Drumhills Farm, Cappagh, Co.Waterford.
Makes: around 80 balls
- 4,5dl warm water
- 1 fish stock cube
- 1,5dl good quality white wine
- 3 shallots
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 100g baby spinach
- 40g curly parsley
- 70g fresh flat-leaf parsley
- 15g fresh basil
- half a hand fresh mint
- 1 teaspoon dried sage
- 1 teaspoon tarragon
- 1 teaspoon of thyme
- 1 teaspoon dried marjoram
- 2 bay leaves
- 6 grinds of pepper
- 1,5 tablespoon of lemon juice
- 4 whole cod fillets
- 300g paxo golden dried breadcrumbs
- 250g potatoes
- 35ml milk
- 60g Kerrygold salted butter
- 30g fresh chives
- 4 egg whites
First we’re going to make our herby green sauce. Start by heating up some water in a deep pot. Gather all the fresh ingredients: remove all the basil leaves, mint leaves form their stems and do the same for the parsley. Chop the shallots roughly, there’s no need to cut them finely as it’ll all be going into a blender anyway. Peel & boil the potatoes and once boiled, gradually stir in 10g of butter and the milk to have a creamy potato mash. Make sure this mash is not too thick but don’t make it into a runny mash either or the balls won’t hold up. By adding the butter and milk gradually until you are pleased with the result you can avoid ending up with a mash that is too liquid.
Meanwhile add the stock cube to the a jar with 4,5dl warm water. Stir and smash until dissolved. Heat up 25g of butter in a deep pan and add shallots. Once they start to glaze, add the water along with the wine and bay leaves, thyme, pepper, marjoram, sage and tarragon and continue to simmer at medium-high heat. Let the sauce cook for about 10 minutes in total. Discard the bay leaves before adding it to the blender.
Now it’s time to move on to our green sauce. Boil some water in a deep pot and add spinach and both parsleys and boil for 2 minutes. Drain the water and rinse off the spinach and parsley with cold water. Drain again and set aside.
Get a blender ready and add our freshly cooked spinach and parsley along with basil and mint. Add 25g of butter as well as half of the water/wine mixture and blend. Gradually add more of the wine/water until you have a good consistency.
For the cod-potato balls simply put all the fish (without skin obviously) into a food processor and add about 16 tablespoons of potato mash and the chives. Blitz a few times until everything is chopped up nicely and there are no chunks left. The easiest way to bread and shape the mixture now is to set a few bowls ready on the table. In the first one you’ll have all your mash, in the second one you mix up some egg whites and in the third one you have the breadcrumbs. This will become quite messy so I would recommend to do a few at the time so you don’t end up mixing egg whites with breadcrumbs the entire time. Now get a lump of the mash and shape it into a ball. You want these to be bitesize, don’t make them any bigger than 5cm. Now dip the ball into the egg whites, roll it around and then drop it into the breadcrumbs. Set aside on a plate, you’ll notice the balls will firm up while they are set aside, which will help them keep shape once you start to fry them.
Heat up a deep fryer to 180° and cook the balls for 3-5 minutes until golden brown and crispy.
Have any leftovers? You can easily freeze both the sauce and the fishcakes! To reheat the cakes you can deep fry them again or place them in the oven at 180°.