13 February 2011

Mum's Birthday

After so many years, I'm now finally back in Sweden and can celebrate my Mum's birthday and instead of giving her yet another thing to clog up the house, I decided to let her have a day off from housework and cook dinner and make the cake. Though of course it was a croquembouche, since the first attempt failed miserably.

For the main course, I made fishcakes with cheese sauce from the Hairy Bikers. It was the cheese sauce that was most intriguing, but since Lundulph doesn't approve of cheese, I was saving this recipe for an occasion where he wasn't around.


To be on the safe side, I also made a double amount of the recipe.

1 kg mashed potatoes
1 kg hake fillet
salt and freshly ground pepper
5 dl full milk
2 bay leaves
2 medium sized eggs
3 tbsp finely cut parsley
ground white pepper
4 tbsp plain flour
4 medium sized eggs
3 dl bread crumbs
vegetable oil for shallow frying
additional milk to bring liquid up to 1 litre
100 g butter
4 tbsp plain flour
350 g grated cheddar cheese
salt and pepper to taste

  1. Peel and boil the potatoes, then mash or push through a ricer and set aside to cool down completely.

  2. Cut the hake fillet into chunks so as to fit into a saucepan, season with salt and pepper and lay it in a saucepan in a single layer. Pour the milk on top, add the two bay leaves, cover and place on the hob on low to medium heat and poach for about 25 minutes, until the fish has gone opaque and goes flaky.

  3. Pour off the liquid through a strainer and top up with milk until it is 1 litre, then set aside for use in the cheese sauce.

  4. Remove skin and such, then shred the fish and add to the mashed potatoes.

  5. Add the two eggs, parsley, salt and white pepper and mix together well.

  6. In a separate saucepan, melt the butter and when it starts to bubble, add the flour an stir vigorously for a couple of minutes, then start adding the liquid a little at a time, stirring constantly.

  7. When all the liquid is incorporated and the sauce begins to thicken a bit, add the cheese and stir in until it has melted. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

  8. From the fish-potato mixture, form patties and roll in flour.

  9. Heat up the oil in a large pan on medium hot, in the mean time, whisk the four eggs lightly and prepare the breadcrumbs on a plate.

  10. Dip each patty in the eggs, then roll in the bread crumbs and fry for a couple of minutes on each side, enough to make them golden brown and heat them through.

  11. Serve with the cheese sauce.

I don't know if I've reached a new stage in my life where I'm prepared to accept fish as food (other than salmon and tuna as up to now) or if I'd just made my mind up to do this recipe and thus was in a mental state to actually eat these fish cakes, but when I picked up the hake yesterday morning, I didn't feel nausea from the smell when I unwrapped it. My Dad came round to see what I was up to and wrinkled his nose, I take after him, obviously.

I then pulled out a couple of disposable gloves and proceeded in poaching and then shredding the fish. It still smelt strongly of fish, but also rather pleasant. And those gloves were great, I must get some for my kitchen in the UK. I also used them to mix everything, it was so much better that way. And also the shaping was easy, as very little stuck to the gloves. From the above amounts, I got 20 fish cakes, planning on 2 per person, though they did turn out to be a bit too big for that, for me at least. And the cheese sauce was fantastic, using the poaching liquid added a nice dimension to it and the end result was not at all fishy, which both I and my Mum found rather surprising.

As usual, I was a bit light on salt. And I think the fish cakes might benefit from dill and chives as well, to spruce them up even further. My Mum did mutter on several occasions yesterday that I shouldn't follow a recipe literally, but I stood firm, and the result was great. Now next time, I can start varying things.

Interlaced with the fish cakes, I made the croquembouche. I used the same recipe as before, but double batch and I made the buns in the evening before. The oven was playing up, I guess this is something one has to live with. And so many of the buns collapsed when I turned the trays around. But for the last tray, I turned down the temperature to 175 degrees C and that made the difference that I could leave them in without turning round. This resulted in the buns staying puffed and round, making them so much easier to fill. So actually the collapse is undesirable. I also sprinkled pearl sugar on them at the start and tried a few with Daim sprinkles, which sadly melted, so won't do that again. But the ones with nib sugar seemed fine. Though after storing in a box overnight, the sugar had sadly melted.


For the filling of the choux, I decided to do something with Nutella, to compensate for the fact that I once again missed World Nutella Day on 5th February. A quick google search resulted in the following that was sufficiently simple enough to do.

2 dl Nutella
1.25 dl whipping cream
2.5 dl whipped cream

  1. Melt the Nutella with the 1.25 dl whipping cream in a bain marie, while stirring together until it is a smooth mixture.

  2. Remove from the heat and allow to cool down completely.

  3. Whip the 2.5 dl to stiff peaks, then carefully stir into the Nutella mixture and place in the fridge for an hour to firm up.

This turned out to be something absolutely divine! Would work nicely on cakes too, though not as glazing, it's not firm enough, I don't think. And whenever I get my hands on an ice cream machine, that'll certainly be a mixture I intend to try out in frozen form.

Then after a brief rest, my Mum came over and we made a cone, this time from a newspaper and with a vase supporting it on the inside and covered with aluminium foil on the outside. Mum then melted sugar and made a beautiful caramel, she has the knack for it. She kept stirring when needed and heated and cooled as needed, while I concentrated on building the pyramid. Frankly, this contraption definitely requires two people.


I didn't grease up the aluminium foil, so a lot of the choux buns stuck to it and we decided to leave the mould in, rather than do it the proper way and remove it. Maybe the third time is the charm and I'll manage to make a true croquembouche.

It was tasty though and I used up a lot more buns than I had intended, around 80 I think. It would have been enough for 20 people at least too, because after a full meal, fitting in more than 3 of these delicious little things would have been a struggle.

Today, some of the caramel had melted as it tends to after a few hours, but thanks to the mould cone still being in place, everything still holds together. We'll be eating it for a few more days to come I'm sure.