"With the single exception of the mackerel, he [the Whiting] suffers more than any salt-water fish from packing and carriage; and is, indeed, a more delicate fish than the mackerel, and should be eaten as soon as possible after being caught."
Frank Buckland (c. 1881)
Quite obviously these are fishy versions of falafels. The chickpeas are replaced with fish and chickpea (gram) flour, but otherwise the recipe follows that of a traditional falafel recipe. OK, fine, they're just spiced fishcakes. Since the flavours in the "fishafel" mix are quite assertive, this is one of those times to use cheaper, perhaps less full-flavoured fish species of which whiting would be an ideal choice. Other candidates include pollack, flounder and plaice, all of which are available at this time of year.
Falafels are traditionally served with Tahina. This is a dressing or sauce made with tahini (go figure!), lemon juice, parsley, garlic and good extra virgin olive oil. Because of the Middle Eastern heritage of this dish, this was a perfect opportunity to make use of the Lebanese olive oil I recently acquired, produced by Qadisha Valley. As I mentioned in Grey Mullet "Ladolemono", this oil won a "Great Taste" award in 2017 and is available from Rose Ash Foods. The Tahina recipe is my father's - he makes it better than I do.
Serve these "fishafels" with flatbreads and let everyone make their own wraps with a large dollop of the Tahina inside. Here I've also served them with pickles, radishes and a cauliflower and wild garlic "Tabouleh" (the mild winter has seen to an early start of the wild garlic season).
Don't worry if you don't have chickpea (gram) flour (though these days it's very easy to get hold of), just use plain flour.
"Fishafels" with Tahina
Ingredients (makes 12 "fishafels" which serves 2)
For the "fishafels":
300g skinless fish fillets (see intro), roughly chopped
2 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp coriander seeds
1 large or 2 small garlic cloves, roughly chopped
2 handfuls of coriander, including stalks, roughly chopped
2 handfuls of flat leaf parsley, including stalks, roughly chopped
1-2 tbsp lemon juice
1 egg yolk, beaten
2 tbsp chickpea (gram) flour, plus extra for dredging
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Oil for shallow frying
For the Tahina:
1 tbsp tahini (the thick stuff from the bottom of the jar)
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp finely chopped flat leaf parsley, plus a little extra to garnish
½ tsp garlic, pasted
¼ tsp ground cumin
Approx 2 tbsp water
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
First make the Tahina. Put the tahini, extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice, parsley, garlic and cumin in a bowl and mix well. Gradually stir in the water until the consistency resembles that of natural yoghurt. The amount of water required will depend upon the thickness of the tahini. Season well and add more lemon juice and/or olive oil as preferred. Cover and put in the fridge for at least half an hour, but it will improve given more time. When ready to serve it may require thinning with a little more water or lemon juice.
Toast the cumin and coriander seeds in a dry frying pan for a minute or two, taking care not to let them burn. Transfer to a plate and allow to cool.
Put the cooled seeds along with all the other ingredients except the oil in a blender and blitz to a thick green paste. If it is too thick just add a drop or two of water. Make sure it is well seasoned.
Take golf ball sized lumps of the paste and form into small patties. Cover with clingfilm and put in the fridge for half an hour or so to firm up. Remove from the fridge 5 minutes before cooking.
Heat enough oil for shallow frying in a deep frying pan. When up to temperature, dredge the patties in some sifted chickpea flour, shake off the excess and shallow fry until golden on both sides. This should take approximately 5 minutes in total. Drain on kitchen paper and then serve with the Tahina and some flatbreads.