Salmon Fish Balls

These are like very light fishcakes. Their lightness is a result of being made with a thick béchamel sauce instead of potato. If you can use finely chopped fresh red chilli instead of cayenne pepper I think it is a bonus. Although a sauce is not strictly necessary you could serve them with mayonnaise, tartare sauce or a fresh tomato sauce.

Ingredients

  • 550 g/ lb skinless salmon fillet
  • 300 ml/½ pint full cream milk
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 75 g/3 oz butter
  • 50 g/2 oz plain flour
  • 3-4 pinches cayenne pepper
  • leaves from 1 bunch watercress
  • 50 g/2 oz fresh white breadcrumbs
  • groundnut oil for frying
  • salt

Method

Lay the salmon fillet in a wide saucepan, then add the milk. Cover the pan and put over a fairly low heat. Let the milk just bubble for about 5 minutes, until the fish flakes easily. Remove from the heat and pour off the milk into a jug.

Peel the garlic and chop finely. Melt the butter in a saucepan and add the garlic. Remove from the heat, sift in the flour and stir thoroughly. Gradually stir in the fish poaching milk. Put the pan back on the heat and bring to the boil, stirring all the time with a wooden spoon. Bubble gently, still stirring, for about 4 minutes, until very thick. Remove the pan from the heat and flake in the poached salmon. Season well with cayenne pepper and salt. Chop the watercress leaves fairly small and stir them in. Turn the mixture into a shallow dish and leave until cold, then cover with cling film and chill for at least an hour.

Put the breadcrumbs into a bowl and flour your hands. Take small amounts of the chilled mixture and roll lightly into round shapes, a little bigger than pingpong balls. Dip the balls in the breadcrumbs one by one and set aside.

To cook, heat about 1.25 cm/½ in groundnut oil in a deep, heavy-based frying pan until very hot. Fry the balls over a fairly high heat for a few minutes on each side until golden brown. Remove carefully with a slotted spatula and drain on absorbent paper. Arrange on a serving dish or on individual plates. You can keep the fish balls warm in the lowest possible oven for up to an hour until ready to eat. Before serving, garnish with a pretty leaf or two.

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