At a time in the late ‘70’s when many chefs were still making their names following the parables espoused by Elizabeth David and her love affair of all things French, and home-cooking was seen as decidedly lacklustre, a young Gary Rhodes set his focus on overlooked regional traditions. He reprieved many dishes of British origin that had been swept aside in the culinary rush to the garrigue-clad shores of the Mediterranean. Countless household standards of cookery had almost been abandoned when Gary, as one of a contemporary restaurant elite, gave a renewed public voice to their virtues – his oxtail stew and steak and kidney pudding for example, established enduring new benchmarks. During a time when bourgeois Britain was virtually swimming in extra-virgin olive oil and Crème Anglaise, Gary championed common ingredients such as butter and custard with a messianic zeal.

And when it comes to butter, don’t invite your consultant cardiologist around for this little home-cooked number.

Salmon Fish Cakes from New British Classics (1999) by Gary Rhodes

Serves 4-6

1 tbsp unsalted butter

2 shallots, finely chopped

450 g salmon, filleted and skinned

150 ml dry white wine

1 tbsp chopped fresh parsley

350 g mashed potatoes

2 tbsp plain flour

2 eggs, beaten

225 g fresh breadcrumbs

Salt and pepper

Vegetable oil for deep frying

For lemon butter sauce

200 g unsalted butter

Juice of 1 lemon

50 ml stock

Salt and pepper

Pre-heat the oven to 200°C/400°F/Gas mark 6 and butter a baking tray

Sprinkle the finely chopped shallots onto the tray, sit the salmon on top and season

Add white wine and cover with foil and cook in the pre-heated oven for about 8-10 minutes

Sit the salmon in a colander over a pan to collect all the cooking juices

When collected, boil the juices to a syrupy consistency

Break up the salmon with a wooden spoon then add the syrupy reduction and the chopped parsley

Fold in 225 g of the potato and then add it spoonful at a time until you have a binding texture

Check for seasoning then roll into 12 – 18 balls about 4 cms in diameter

Lightly pass through the flour, beaten eggs and then the breadcrumbs; repeat the process of egg and breadcrumbs once more

Heat the vegetable oil to 180°C then fry the fishcakes for about 4-5 minutes until golden brown

Drain on kitchen paper

To make the sauce, chop the butter into 1 cm pieces and put in a pan with the lemon juice and stock

Bring to the simmer, whisking all the time

Do not allow the sauce to boil or the butter will separate


To serve pour warm lemon butter sauce into individual bowls and sit 3 fish cakes in the centre of each one

Wine thoughts

There are times when the ubiquity of good Australian Chardonnay can be a blessing rather than a curse. And that goes for a good Australian winemaker too, in this case, unusually named Bruce (true). With creamy butter and a tsunami of lemon, this dish cries out for what an oak barrel does best. Its ingress of oxygen rounds off any sharp corners in the wine, it aids the malolactic fermentation, which in turn makes the wine creamier, and it adds a sheen of vanilla. With the resultant silky rich peach and pineapple flavours, an oaked Chardonnay will offer a welcome foil to the buttery salmon and citrus rush. But beware, cheap supermarket examples are likely to offer a mere shadow of what a fine New World Chardonnay can bring to the table.

And they don’t do shirts like Bruce’s either.