Moroccan fish cakes with hot pepper sauce

Gurnard, a firm, white-fleshed fish, combines with harissa (a hot chilli paste) and other Moroccan flavourings in Diana Henrys extra spicy fish cakes.
By Diana Henry
Moroccan fish cakes with hot pepper sauce
  • Rating:
  • Serves: 2 as a main course, 4 as a starter
  • Cook Time: 25 minutes
  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Effort: medium


For the hot pepper sauce

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 red peppers, deseeded and sliced
  • 1 medium carrot, chopped
  • 2 shallots, chopped
  • 1 cloves garlic, crushed
  • harissa, to taste
  • 1/4 tsp stamens of saffron
  • 50 g caster sugar
  • 50 ml white wine vinegar

For the fish cakes

  • 350 g gurnard, skinned, deboned and filleted
  • 1 tbsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp dried, crushed chillies
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp harissa
  • 1 tbsp finely grated lemon zest
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • pinches sugar
  • small handful coriander leaves, or mixture of coriander and parsley
  • flour, for shaping and dusting
  • sunflower or vegetable oil, for shallow frying

To serve

  • handfuls coriander leaves
  • lemon wedges


1. For the hot pepper sauce: heat the olive oil in a large frying pan, then with the heat high tip in the peppers, carrot, shallots, garlic and harissa. Turn the heat down, add a splash of water (about 100 ml), then cover and leave to sweat until all the ingredients are soft, about 10 minutes.

2. When softened, stir in the saffron, sugar and vinegar and cook on a low heat for a further 5-10 minutes. Remove from the heat, leave to cool, then purée in a blender until you have a nice smooth mixture. Set aside until you are ready to use it.

3. For the fish cakes: while the sauce is cooking, put all the fish cake ingredients, except the flour and oil, in a food processor and process very briefly using the pulse button you just want everything to blend together, not to turn the fish into a paste. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

4. Put some flour on your hands and make the mixture into little fish cakes by rolling small pieces of it into balls, then covering each one with a dusting of flour and flattening into fish cake shapes.

5. Pour about 4 cm depth of oil into a frying pan and heat it through. Fry the fish cakes for about 6 minutes, turning them over half way through cooking. (Use one as a tester look inside to see whether the fish in the middle has cooked). Lay them on kitchen paper to drain, then sprinkle with sea salt.

6. To serve: Scatter the fish cakes with a handful of coriander leaves and serve with the pepper sauce and a lemon wedge on the side.

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