Sunday, February 17, 2013

Salmon Fish Cakes: Guest Post from Author Deborah Crombie

LUCY BURDETTE: If you haven't read one of Deborah Crombie's books, set in London, you are in for a treat! THE SOUND OF BROKEN GLASS will be published this week, and we're delighted to welcome Debs to talk about her characters and the way they cook...
DEBORAH CROMBIE: I love books where people eat and drink interesting things. I love to eat and drink interesting things.  I am, in fact, a self-confessed foodie. Which maybe explains why, other than the fact that it give my characters something to do while they talk about the murder in question, people are always eating and drinking in my books.

I should add, “eating and drinking and cooking.”  

In THE SOUND OF BROKEN GLASS, it’s my Scotland Yard Detective Superintendent, Duncan Kincaid, who’s doing most of the cooking. While Duncan’s wife, Detective Inspector Gemma James, works a high profile murder case in London’s Crystal Palace area, Duncan has taken family leave to care for their three-year-old foster daughter, Charlotte. A bit frustrated with his role as stay-at-home dad, Duncan puts his energy into cooking. And while Gemma appreciates having a gourmet meal on the table when she comes home from work, she’s also a little jealous of his accomplishments. But that doesn’t keep her from enjoying Duncan’s Salmon Fish Cakes. 

I make this recipe every few weeks myself.  It’s adapted from a recipe in Robin Ellis’s Delicious Dishes for Diabetics, and even my hubby, who doesn’t like salmon, loves it. (Robin—that’s Ross Poldark, by the way—adapted the recipe from Nigel Slater.) I’ve used regular flour rather than the chickpea flour that Robin recommends for a diabetic diet, a whole egg rather than the white, and I just break up the raw salmon in a bowl with a fork. The recipe works well with dried dill if you don’t have fresh.

1 lb salmon fillet – skinless and checked for bones
1 egg
1 tbsp flour
1 tsp grain mustard
juice of ½ lemon
bunch of dill – chopped fine
salt and pepper
2 tbsp olive oil

•    Mix all the yogurt sauce ingredients and refrigerate until you are ready to eat.
•    Cut up the salmon fillets in roughly equal-size pieces.
•    Put these in a mixer and pulse three or four times.
•    Avoid working them too much and producing slush at the end.
•    Put the salmon in a bowl.
•    Turn in the egg and the flour, then the mustard, lemon juice and dill.
•    Season with salt and pepper.
•    It’s a good idea to taste the mix for seasoning at this point–the dill and the salt should come through.
•    Refrigerate if not using immediately.

•    Heat the oil in a frying pan and using a dessert spoon scoop out a dollop and make a ball.
•    Put this in the pan and flatten it gently.
•    Cook on a medium-high flame, crisping and browning the outside while making sure the interior cooks through.
    Yogurt sauce
•    2 x 125 ml pots low-fat yogurt
•    1 tsp grain mustard
•    good pinch of chopped dill
•    salt
Serve with lemon wedges.

The trick to these, I’ve discovered, is not to overcook the salmon, and to handle the patties very gently.
Duncan serves the fishcakes with steamed new potatoes, the yogurt sauce, and a green salad.  Oh, and a bottle of chilled Sauvignon Blanc.
(Credit for the photos to Robin Ellis and Meredith Wheeler. My fishcakes don’t look quite as pretty.)

Kit, Duncan’s fourteen-year-old son, takes after his dad on the cooking front.  He surprises the family with his own recipe for Gourmet Mac Cheese, but as he doesn’t share the ingredients, I can’t pass the recipe on.

There’s lots of eating of yummy sandwiches in the book, too, and meals from a lovely pub in Putney called The Jolly Gardener.  

But the best meal I had while doing the research for this book I didn’t manage to fit into the story. It was at a venerable restaurant called Joanna’s in South London’s Crystal Palace area.
Joanna’s is famous for their mussels, so my friend and I started by sharing the mussels in white wine, butter, and garlic, served with very fresh crusty artisan bread from the bakery next door. We had a debate over whether or not to lick the bowl. Then on to Roast Belly of Suffolk Pork, Savoy cabbage, creamy mash (mashed potatoes, sometimes with other root vegetables,) and Kentish apple & ginger sauce . To finish, we shared my absolute all-time favorite dessert, Sticky Toffee Pudding.  Everything was to die for. And it was a good thing I had a long walk down the hill to the train, because I needed it.

Okay, now I’m starving. And planning what to eat on my trip to London in just a few weeks. Oh, and what Duncan, Gemma, and Kit can cook in the NEXT book.

You can read more about Deborah and THE SOUND OF BROKEN GLASS at her website.


  1. Welcome, and yum! And there's that nice piece of fresh salmon sitting in my fridge--now I know what to do with it. Of course I'm wondering about the Kentish apple and ginger sauce, which sounds like a great complement to the pork belly. Drat, you've made me hungry, and I've just had breakfast!

  2. Sheila, I made a salmon stir-fry from Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution book a couple of weeks ago and it was delish! Even dear hubby liked it, which is saying something.

  3. The salmon cakes look so good and so does the book! I'm a fan of Gemma James.

  4. Wonderful post, Deb. Great to see you in our Kitchen and warm congrats on another stellar read with The Sound of Broken Glass. Well, your foodie trip to London started my drooling for the day. I'll be craving those mussels in white wine for hours, not to mention sticky toffee pudding (not sure if I can thank you for that)! But I will thank for sharing the salmon cake recipe, which I can't wait to try. The combo of mustard and dill with the creamy yogurt topping and a nice glass of white wine, sounds delicious.

  5. Deb, isn't it fun to travel and eat? And to think about food as you write? Yum. I'm very into cookbooks lately and love that you pulled this from a diabetic cookbook. Nice. Flavor without the guilt. Congrats on your latest: SOUND OF BROKEN GLASS.


    Daryl aka Avery

  6. These salmon cakes sound wonderful, Deb. I especially love the story where you debated whether to lick the bowl! Sounds like something I'd do.

    Hmm, now all we need is a recipe for Sticky Toffee Pudding!


  7. Uncooked salmon, at the beginning??? YUM! xooo ANd I can just picture you licking the bowl..xoo

  8. Yes, Hank, these are made with fresh salmon. And I have to admit, when the salmon is really really fresh, to tasting the patties before I cook them.