I devised this recipe with no particular reference to anyone's work that I know. I made the fish cakes and the celery relish the day before but was not happy with how the flavors worked. The next day I was sharing the food with a friend - it had matured overnight and was really quite interesting. I chose the white fish because I wanted the right platform to allow the celery relish to star. The mayonnaise, which can be gourmet store-bought, should be creamy and thick (I mostly make my own). In making the relish, I found that the celery was a bit strong so I added the balsalmic vinegar and it transformed the dish overnight. All the components can be prepared the day before they will be eaten and will only need assembling right before serving to guests with the obligatory glass of Bollinger champagne. I grow thyme, chervil and lovage in my garden - I owe Kate Hill of Camont a great debt because it was her lovage there in her garden and in her cooking that caught my fancy last September. —krusher
18 fish cakes
white fish fillets, bones removed, chopped in 3" pieces
egg white, lightly beaten
zest of 1 lemon
garlic cloves, minced finely
flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
young lovage stalks, finely chopped
chives, finely chopped
neutral oil such as canola
stalks from 1 celery bunch, cut into 2" lengthss
leek, washed with outer leaves discarded, chopped in 2" lengths
Add fish, egg white, lemon zest, garlic in food processor and pulse no more than 6 times. You need texture not mush. Combine the fish mixture thoroughly by hand with the parsley, lovage stalks, corn flour, chives, celery salt and white pepper.
Form small fish cakes (a mouthful size) into flat round shapes (like a tiny hamburger) and put on a platter to rest for half an hour in the fridge.
Heat the oil (Canola in a large non-stick frying pan to medium heat. Put half the fish cakes in and cook about a good minute or two on each side ensuring that they are cooked through. They should be slightly colored. One needs to be careful not to cook them too long as they will easily dry out.
Set the cooked ones on paper towels while the second batch are being quickly browned on each side. If you are going to serve them shortly after cooking then pop the first lot in a warm oven. If you are serving them at another time, pop them all into the fridge in a sealed container when they have cooled down. You will need to heat them in a medium oven for 4 minutes just prior to when you are planning to serve them.
Melt the olive oil and butter in a medium size saucepan. Add the leek, celery and thyme and cook on a relatively low heat until the leek and celery begins to soften. Pour in the chicken stock and turn up the heat to bring it to the boil. As soon as it boils, reduce the heat so that the mixture is slowly simmering,
Add the chervil, balsalmic vinegar and sugar. Put the lid on the pot and let it braise until the celery is quite soft. The liquid should be thickening and adhering to the celery about the time the celery has finally given in and softened. If there is still too much liquid, remove the pan lid and cook it off. When ready remove the thyme sprigs.
Blend the mixture briefly to a coarse texture in a small food processor. Taste to ensure that there is enough salt for your liking. Add if you think it needs it. Put the relish into a fine mesh sieve and let sit over a bowl to ensure all excess moisture is drained away. This relish improves remarkably by sitting in the fridge at least overnight.
ASSEMBLY : you will need 1/2 cup of quality, high-end chilled mayonnaise and a small container of micro celery leaves. The fish cake is best served warm, the relish at room temperature and the mayonnaise chilled.
Take each warm fish cake, top with a reasonable amount of celery relish. Delicately and artistically put 1/2 teaspoon of mayonnaise on top of the relish and top with a single vibrant green baby celery leaf.