Smoked Mackerel Fishcakes 2

The other day as I was chatting away with a fewvendors at the Honest 2 Goodness farmers market, I realised that somewhere between arriving in Ireland on March 4th, 2010 and last Saturday, I’d managed to create a life here.

When I first landed, I had a few friends I knew from years ago but as they all lived in a different area it was common for me to walk around town (Drogheda, which was my first home here) and not know a single face. I’d go grocery shopping, sit and read at a café for hours, stroll around the streets without seeing a single person I knew. I stumbled my way through getting to know the one-way streets and the opening hours of the post office and Tesco and which roads allowed free parking and which ones didn’t.

Ocean Water

People say you either sink or swim, but for the first several months I was doggy paddling rather soppily – and doing a pretty good job at staying afloat. I couldn’t quite open my eyes underwater and sometimes I’d bump my head into a wall, but I kept kicking. After meeting Mountaineering Man and dating for several months, I made the move to Dublin and started that process again – the getting-to-know-you part – finding my way around the city, making new friends and creating a home. And I kept on paddling.

Somewhere along the journey, it all fell into place. The email friendships I’d made through food blogging turned into real-life ones. One day I drove from Point A to Point B, and realised I didn’t have to look at step-by-step directions that MM wrote down for me. And I found myself in the midst of many “stop and chats” at the market, because somehow, some way I’d gotten to know people – enough so that I could run into a familiar face whilst out and about, and enough so that when one person referenced another, I could say, “Yes, yes I know her!” And I do.

Corgette Tomato Salad

If I’d have thought about all that I had to do in order to get to this point, I probably would have given up. But instead of getting mired in the details, I focused on one thing at a time. Today, I’ll figure out how to drive from MM’s apartment to Jervis Centre and back home again. Next week I’ll invite some bloggers over for brunch. Later I’ll email the immigration office and ask them if I need to charge VAT on my invoices.

I liken the process to that of cleaning a really messy room: If you stand there and look at every item of clothing on the floor that needs picking up, and all the dust on the dresser that needs cleaning, you’ll walk away and watch TV instead. But if you pick up just one pile of clothing, fold the items and put them away, you’ll feel like you accomplished something…and that feeling will inspire you to move onto the next thing.

When I made the decision to move to Ireland, I focused only on the possibilities that a new place could offer. Now dozens of new friends, steady work, a beautiful apartment to call home and one handsome Irish fiancé later, I have a life here.

Smoked Mackerel Fishcakes

Smoked Mackerel Fishcakes with Minty Chimichurri Sauce

We get our fish from Johnny Fish at the Honest to Goodness market every Saturday because it’s local (caught off the coast of Wexford) and always fresh. He always sees me coming and gives me the scoop on the day’s catch when I arrive to his truck. Last Saturday he had some beautiful whole smoked mackerel, so I bought one (a bargain for €3.50!) and made fishcakes for our Sunday supper. I served it with a side salad and I’m happy to say that everything in our dinner was sourced from the H2G market. We love that place! This recipe makes 10 small fishcakes (pictured above). I love serving smoked fishcakes of any kind with a simple chimichurri, which I make with a hint of mint.

1 whole smoked mackerel (mine yielded about 7 ounces of meat)

3 peeled small new potatoes

2 teaspoons olive oil plus 1 tablespoon

1 yellow bell pepper, chopped into small pieces

1 white onion, chopped into small pieces

1 leek, cut into small slices

1 egg

1 knob of baguette – about 3 inches long

5 tablespoons of sunflower seeds

First, pick the meat off of the mackerel – very carefully! I managed to get the fillets off without most of the bones, but I still had to pick out a few fine ones that I missed. The best way to do this is to shred the meat with your fingers to make sure you don’t miss any. Place the fish meat into a large bowl, and set aside.

Cook the 3 new potatoes any way you like – bake, boil or microwave until done. While the potatoes cook, heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add in the bell pepper, onion and leek and cook – stirring frequently – until soft, about 7-9 minutes. Put the vegetable mixture into the bowl with the mackerel meat, and then add the potatoes, mashing them up with a fork and then mixing all of the fish, veggies and mashed potatoes together. Now add in one egg and mix well – the mixture will be a bit sticky.

In a food processor, blitz together the bread and sunflower seeds into a coarse mixture. Add this into the bowl with the rest of the ingredients; this should help tighten up the mixture.

Using a large spoon (or a measuring cup – I used the ¼ cup measure), scoop out the mixture and form first into a ball, and then a small patty. Place onto a paper-lined cutting board or baking tray. Repeat until you have all your patties and place in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

In the same large sauté pan you used to cook the veggies in, heat up the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium-high heat. Place the patties into the oil and let cook on one side for about 2-3 minutes, or until browned and crusty on the bottom. Flip and cook for another 2 minutes or so. You may need to do this in batches, so just keep the oven at 100 degrees and place the cooked fishcakes in the oven while you cook up the rest. Drizzle with Minty Chimichurri and serve.

Minty Chimichurri

4 fresh mint leaves

Big handful fresh corriander

1 garlic clove

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Sprinkle of sea salt

In a mini food processor or blender (or you can use a mortar & pestle), combine the mint leaves, corriander and garlic clove and blitz until it is finely minced. Add in the vinegar, olive oil and sea salt and blend until smooth.

I served our fishcakes with a simple salad: I sliced corgettes and tossed in a bowl with a bit of olive oil and sea salt, and baked them on a baking tray in a preheated 200 C degree oven for 25 minutes. While they baked, I sliced some tomatoes and made a simple dressing of lemon juice, Djion mustard and olive oil. As soon as the corgettes came out of the oven, I tossed them with the cold tomatoes and poured over the dressing – the heat of the corgettes makes the veggies really soak up the dressing. I then topped with chopped fresh basil. Enjoy!