Polenta-Crusted Fish Cakes with Spicy Tomato Sauce

"Fish cakes are perceived as being quite British, and they're always a bit brown and a little dull," Yotam Ottolenghi says. To make the cakes more vibrant, he adds plenty of herbs and serves them with a tarragon-infused tomato sauce spiked with fresh red chile.

Polenta-Crusted Fish Cakes with Spicy Tomato Sauce
Photo: © David Malosh
Total Time:
45 mins



  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

  • 6 garlic clove (minced)

  • 1 large fresh red chile (minced)

  • 4 large plum tomatoes (chopped)

  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste

  • cup water

  • 1 ½ tablespoons chopped tarragon

  • Salt

Fish Cakes

  • ¾ pound Yukon Gold potatoes (peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks)

  • ¼ cup instant polenta

  • 1 ½ pounds skinless cod (or halibut fillets, cut into 1-inch chunks)

  • 4 garlic cloves (minced)

  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley

  • 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro

  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt

  • 1 ½ teaspoons ground cumin

  • 1 large egg (lightly beaten)

  • ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper

  • 2 tablespoons canola oil


  1. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil. Add the garlic and chile and cook over moderately low heat until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Add the tomatoes and cook over moderate heat until thickened, about 10 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste and water and simmer for 2 minutes longer. Add the tarragon and season with salt.

  2. In a saucepan, cover the potatoes with water and bring to a boil. Boil over moderately high heat until tender, about 7 minutes. Drain well and lightly mash the potatoes with a fork.

  3. Spread the polenta in a pie plate. In a food processor, combine the fish, garlic, parsley, cilantro, salt, cumin, egg and crushed red pepper and pulse until the fish is coarsely chopped. Transfer to a bowl and fold in the potatoes. Form the mixture into twelve 2-inch cakes (1/2 inch thick); coat with the polenta.

  4. In a large nonstick skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil. Add half of the fish cakes and pan-fry over moderately high heat until golden brown and just cooked through, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer to a platter. Repeat with the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil and fish cakes, adjusting the heat if the cakes get too dark. Serve the fish cakes hot or at room temperature with the warm tomato sauce.

Make Ahead

The tomato sauce can be refrigerated overnight. Reheat gently.


One Serving 375 cal, 9 gm fat, 1.5 gm sat fat, 31 gm carb, 3 gm fiber, 41 gm protein.

Suggested Pairing

Full-bodied southern Italian white.

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