Fish cakes with tomato sauce (Machchi na cutless)

These spicy fish cakes and sauce are great hot or cold. They also work well in soft rolls for a fancy sandwich.


For the tomato sauce

  • 2-3 tbsp sunflower or rapeseed oil
  • 2 x 2.5cm/1in piece cinnamon stick
  • 2 large whole dried red chillies, broken into three or four pieces (seeded, if liked)
  • 3-4 cloves (optional)
  • 2 smallish onions, finely chopped
  • 1 heaped tbsp ginger and garlic paste (or 4 garlic cloves, crushed and 2 tsp grated fresh ginger)
  • 4-5 tomatoes, chopped (or a 400g/14oz can chopped tomatoes)
  • 1 tbsp malt vinegar
  • 1 tbsp jaggery or muscovado sugar
  • ½ tsp tamarind paste (optional)
  • salt, to taste

For the fishcakes

  • 250g/9oz white fish fillet, skinned
  • 1 large green chilli, finely chopped
  • 2.5cm/1in piece fresh ginger, finely chopped
  • 6-8 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp chopped coriander leaves
  • 1 tsp salt, or to taste
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 free-range egg
  • 2 slices white bread, soaked briefly in water and squeezed out
  • salt and pepper

To finish

  • 100g/3½oz plain flour
  • 2-3 free-range eggs
  • oil, for shallow-frying


  1. For the tomato sauce, heat the oil in a heavy-based saucepan or a flameproof casserole, over a medium heat. Add the cinnamon sticks and fry until deep brown in colour and swollen, but not burnt. Add the red chillies and cloves (if using) and, after about 20 seconds, add the chopped onions. Fry gently for 3-4 minutes, or until they are soft but not brown. Add the ginger and garlic paste and fry for a further minute or so.

  2. Stir in the tomatoes, vinegar, jaggery (or muscovado sugar) and tamarind, if using. Part-cover and simmer over a low heat for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until pulpy. Season to taste with salt, remove from the heat and set aside.

  3. For the fishcakes, if you have a mincer (grinder) or food processor at home, then mincing the fish is easy. If not then you can chop up the fillets and with a cleaver or a large knife. Chop repeatedly as if chopping parsley until you get a fine mince.

  4. In a food processor, blend the chilli, ginger, garlic and coriander with the fish and mix to a rough paste.

  5. Add the salt, lemon juice and the egg and mix well. Finally work in the well-squeezed bread. The bread is to stabilise the mixture and if you find it is too soft, soak and squeeze another slice or two until you have a mix that is firm enough to form into balls without sticking to you palms.

  6. To check the seasoning, fry a tiny piece fry of the mixture and taste. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. When you are happy with it, divide the mixture into even-sized balls depending on the size you prefer. You may like them large if eating as a main dish or small if serving as a snack.

  7. Heat about 5mm/¼in oil in a deep frying pan. Spread the flour out in a flat tray big enough to take all the balls at one time and beat the eggs in a shallow dish.

  8. Flatten each ball until about 1cm/½ in thick. Smooth the edges so that they are not jagged or uneven. Coat in the flour and then the beaten eggs, draining off any excess. If the egg is well-beaten you will get a nice frilly texture.

  9. Fry the cakes in batches for 2-3 minutes on each side, or until golden-brown. Drain on a plate lined with kitchen paper. Remove the cinnamon and cloves (if using) from the sauce and reheat, if serving hot.

  10. Serve the fishcakes hot or cold with the sauce.