Cod cakes in tomato sauce

Adapted from the cookbook Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi & Sami Tamimi






“With their sweet and slightly sharp sauce, these fish cakes, typical of Syrian Jews, manage to capture much of the spirit of Sephardic food. They are delicate, almost brittle, and thus very comforting and very popular, perfect for a large family gathering where there are many, often fussy diners to please. The cakes are almost better the day after they are cooked; just remember to bring them back to room temperature or warm them up before serving. Serve with bulgar, rice, cous cous, or bread, alongside sautéed spinach or Swiss chard.”

These cakes freeze perfectly, with the sauce. Gently package them individually in plastic wrap, then wrapped in tin foil. They defrost and reheat well in the microwave. Or place altogether in oven ready glass container, defrost and oven warm gently.

 Makes 8 cakes


1/3 cup whole wheat or white plain bread crumbs

1 1/3 lb cod fish (sustainably sourced), halibut, hake, or Pollock fillet, skinned and pin bones removed

1 medium onion, finely chopped (about 1 cup)

4 cloves garlic, crushed/minced

1 oz (1-2 TBS)flat leaf parsley, finely chopped

1 oz (1-2 TBS) cilantro, finely chopped

1 TBS ground cumin

1 ½ tsp salt

2 large free-range eggs, beaten

4 TBS olive oil

Tomato Sauce

2 ½ TBS olive oil

1 ½ tsp ground cumin

½ tsp sweet paprika

1 tsp ground coriander

1 medium onion, chopped

½ cup dry white wine (optional)

One 14oz can chopped tomatoes

1 red chili (or jalapeno), seeded and finely chopped

1 clove crushed garlic

2 tsp sugar (optional)

2 TBS fresh mint leaves, coarsely chopped (or 1 TBS dried)

Salt and freshly ground black pepper



First, make the tomato sauce. Heat olive oil over medium heat in a very large frying pan for which you have a lid. Add the spices and onion and cook for 8 -10 minutes, until the onion is completely soft. Add the wine and simmer for 3 minutes. Add the tomatoes, chile, garlic, sugar, ½ teaspoon salt, and some black pepper. Simmer for about 15 minutes, until quite thick. Taste to adjust seasoning and set aside.

While sauce is cooking, make the fish cakes. Chop the fish very finely and place in a bowl along with the breadcrumbs and everything else, except the olive oil. Mix together well and then, using your hands, shape the mixture into compact cakes about ¾” thick and 3 ¼” in diamater. You should have 8 cakes. If they are very soft, refrigerate for 30 minutes to firm up. (You can also add some dried bread crumbs to the mix, though do this sparingly; the cakes need to be quite wet.)

Heat half the olive oil in a frying pan over medium-high heat, add half the cakes, and sear for 3 minutes on each side, until well colored. Repeat with the remaining cakes and oil.

Gently place the seared cakes side by side in the tomato sauce: you can squeeze them a bit so they all fit. Add just enough water to cover the cakes partially (about a scant cup). Cover the pan with the lid and simmer over very low heat for 15 -20 minutes. Turn off the heat and leave the cakes to settle, uncovered, for at least 10 minutes before serving warm or at room temperature, sprinkled with the mint.

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