Although I love cooking, like most people, I don’t always have time. Convenience food is a necessary evil in a busy working life. I was encouraged to write a review of the Waitrose Salmon and Peppery Watercress Sauce fish cakes by the latest episode of Eat Well For Less. A couple who regularly buy marinated chicken from Waitrose curled their lip at a Moroccan version when it was presented to them in plain packaging.
I don’t feel that the title of the programme necessary fits the content in that much of the advice focuses on buying cheaper, clearly inferior versions. I thought it would be interesting to look objectively at what is available and try and make an interesting meal out of it. Of course I bought the Moroccan chicken (more later) but I thought I’d start with the fish cake. They cost £3.99 for two fishcakes but there was an offer of two packs for £6.
I’ve had a few of this sort of thing and for me the common pitfalls and the differentiators are plenty of tasty fish, a tasty fresh tasting sauce, and crucially a robust enough casing which holds together. So many of these either fall apart on the baking tray or can’t handle being transported on a spatula.
All the good work previously literally falls apart.
The presentation is good. The fish cakes are in a clear plastic wrap and they look pleasingly ‘lumpy’ and uneven. So far I could have made them! The ingredients look OK. The main ingredient is encouragingly salmon (29%) and I can see the flavour is bolstered with coley, cod and anchovy. There is 13.6g of fat in each fish cake and 279 calories.
The cooking instruction are 25-27 minutes from chilled in a fan oven at 180 degrees. This seems consistent with most of the others I’ve tried. These fish cakes often stick so I used the ever-reliable Teflon sheet on a baking tray. While it cooked I brought together the rest of the plate with a bit of fridge clearing.
I’d got tomatoes and I’ve got a personal dislike of fresh tomato with fish – it’s all too wet and cold. I decided to ‘sun dry’ them so I quartered them, scooped out the seeds, tossed them in oil, seasoning and dried oregano and put them on a baking tray for about an hour on a low heat. They came out and cooled just as the fishcakes went in.
I swished some rocket around in the bowl I’d used to prepare the tomatoes and added a squeeze of lemon juice. I put this to one side and set about making some couscous. I love couscous as an easy, quick side dish which can use most spare bits and pieces. I finely chopped a red onion and half a garlic clove and slowly fried them in a little olive oil. When it was soft I put the pulp from the tomatoes back in with the mixture and added some lemon zest, some finely chopped red chilli and a splash of balsamic vinegar. When this was slowly cooked to a soft paste I stirred in the dry couscous and then added boiling water. I swilled some water over the baking tray I’d used for the sun dried tomatoes just to keep the flavour. All I then had to do was put the lid on the pan tightly and let it rest.
I chopped the sun dried tomato when it had cooled into the dressed rocket and I fluffed up the couscous before moulding it onto the plate.
The fishcakes were nicely crisped and unusually I could lift them off the baking tray easily without them breaking. One of the fishcakes casings had broken in transit but even through cooking the sauce stayed securely inside. They had cooked beautifully. The taste test was OK too. They could have been a tad more fishy for my taste. There was a lot of potato in the fishcakes but it is needed for binding and I’ve had worse in restaurants prepared freshly. The sauce is a quite bright green but not garishly so. It tasted quite nice but I didn’t really pick up the peppery tones which were promised.
The salad was just nicely dressed without overpowering the fishcakes. The couscous was also OK but I should probably have made it a little moister and added some lemon juice. All in all the fishcakes were pretty good. Technically they were better than most I have tried – they made it safely to the plate and the temperature and timings were spot on. It could have done with a little more flavour but really not too shabby.