Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Fantastic Fish Cakes with a Sweet Pear Salsa and Lemon Aioli

Three  years have passed since I judged the first ever Great Greely Fishcake competition in Ottawa. You can read about year 1 and year 2 if you like before we move on. After missing the third year, I returned in year four as a competitor...finally! At first I thought it wouldn't be a big deal because it really is a friendly competition between a group of friends. However, at the same time, you still are feeding a large group of people and you want your food to be good. So about a month before, I started to get nervous.

It would be an entire post of it's own for all the recipes I tested and subsequently threw out. I tried four different recipes with various kinds of fish and finally settled on the first one I had made. Safe to say that my wife was pretty sick of fish by the time the event came around.

My reason for choosing this recipe was because it was tasty and uses basa fish which is quite reasonably priced (though not as well priced as tinned tuna). So I chose Curtis Stone's basa fish cake but instead of his side salad, I created a salsa and aioli to go along with it which was inspired by Radius, a restaurant in Hamilton.

Before we announce the results, let's get the recipes! Let's start with the salsa and aioli which you can (and should!) make a day before the fish cakes themselves.

Lemon Aioli from Canadian Living

Printable recipe

  • 1/2 cup light mayonnaise
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp  extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/4 tsp salt (I added a dash of pepper)
  • 1 dash hot pepper sauce, I used Sriracha hot sauce
 Combine well,  cover and refrigerate.

Pear Salsa

  • 1 1/2 cup pears, diced
  • 1/4 cup diced pickled red onions 
  • 1 fresh or canned jalapeno pepper, minced
  • 1 tbsp. white wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp. minced/grated ginger
  • A sprinkle of finely chopped cilantro (or mint is probably nice too)
  • Salt to taste
Combine all ingredients in a bowl, cover and refrigerate.

Spicy Basa Fish Cakes by Curtis Stone (with video)


 I made a small adjustment to the original recipe
  • 500 grams Basa Fillets
  • Zest Of 1 Lemon
  • 2 tsp Olive Oil
  • 1/2 Small Red Onion, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp Fresh Ciilantro, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp  Mayonnaise
  • 1 Egg, lightly beaten
  • 2 tsp Lemon Juice
  • 1/2 tsp Paprika
  • 1/4 tsp  Cayenne Pepper
  • 1/2 cup Dried Breadcrumbs (half for rolling)
  • Vegetable Oil, for frying


Preheat oven to 350F or 180C.

Place basa fillets on a baking tray lined with baking paper. Sprinkle with half the lemon zest and season with salt and pepper. Drizzle with olive oil and cook in oven for 10-12 mins, until opaque and just cooked through, depending on the thickness of the fillet. Remove from oven and cool.
In a large bowl, combine red onion, coriander, mayonnaise, egg, remaining lemon zest, lemon juice, paprika and cayenne pepper. Mix until well combined. Break basa fillets into large flakes and add to bowl. Add half the breadcrumbs and season with salt and pepper. Mix gently until well combined.

Roll mixture into 8 balls, press into 1 1/2 cm-thick patties, roll the patties in the remaining breadcrumbs and place on a tray lined with baking paper. Cover and chill for at least 1 hr.

Heat enough oil to come up to 3mm in a large, heavy-based frying pan over high heat. Working in 2 batches, fry fish cakes for 4 mins on each side, or until browned. Drain on paper towels and keep covered with foil while cooking the second batch.

Test cakes at home

The Results!
So how did it all turn out? Before we reveal, let me tell you that my co-judge from the first two years, Wayne was competing as well and that there is a vote for the "Peoples' Choice" where everyone gets to vote for their favourite. At the end of it all, Wayne's fish cake was first place and mine was second! We ended up in a tie for the Peoples' Choice (if only I had voted for myself...!)

The final product. I sort of liked the salsa scattered about but maybe I shouldn't have done it. I probably would've liked a clean plate better.

The competition, although nerve wracking leading up to it, was a ton of fun and all the fish cakes (six in total) were delicious! Next year I plan on doing something a little crazier and out of the box just for fun. Thank you Uncle Don and Aunt Cathey for hosting such a wonderful event!