tartare sauce with smoked fishcakes

Smoked Haddock Fishcakes with Tartare Sauce

Tintin may still make the odd appearance in French shop windows following Spielberg’s film, but I’m frankly fascinated by Captain Haddock’s nose. It reminds me of a one-liner by Steve Martin in the film, Roxanne (based on the French story of Cyrano de Bergérac by Rostand) referring to ze nose:
“Do you have a license for that?”

Photos are all over the supermarkets to promote the film!

My handsome French teacher at school back in the 80s was also embellished with a nose – or nez, or even pif to be familiar – that was so spectacular that a group of us in class wrote a piece entitled, “Why do Frenchmen have big noses?” We could not have been serious. I was eventually punished for that one when I broke my nose 4 years ago, falling with my complete weight on the hooter. Now I’m constantly reminded of my lesson in this freezing weather when my nose lights up à la Rudolf with its license to glow in the cold.

Do you remember Gérard Depardieu’s legendary nose in Cyrano de Bergerac? As Depardieu’s name suggests, he is a dieu on stage. I saw him larger than life in person recently at the première in Paris of his new Telefilm, Rasputin (in French and Russian). Hang on to your seats, folks. This film is spine-tingling. I can’t think of anyone who could play the part of Rasputin as well as Gérard. You can smell it will be a hit.

I wonder if Captain Archibald Haddock could sniff out these Scottish fishcakes from The Black Island? Although it’s more of a weekday family supper, serving mini portions as a Scottish starter has been a surprising hit with French friends at weekends. I love the smokiness of the fish but what really makes it? The simple, homemade tartare sauce. You know what’s coming, don’t you? It’s another handy recipe to use up your egg yolks for making macarons!

églefin fumé or haddock, please?

You can use any smoked fish or a combination of smoked and plain fish but I personally love making it all with smoked haddock. It took me a while to get the tongue around the French word for haddock: églefin; but did you know that églefin fumé can result in funny looks at the poissonerie? I stand corrected as they say that smoked haddock is just known as…

‘Haddock’ (with a French accent, please.)


Recipe: Smoked Haddock Fishcakes and Tartare Sauce

Preparation Time: 15 minutes
Chilling Time: 30 minutes
Cooking Time: 30 minutes


300g smoked haddock
2 bay leaves
500g potatoes, cooked
zest of an untreated lemon
1 tbsp chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 tbsp chopped chives
2 tsp horseradish sauce
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tbsp capers, chopped
1 egg
oat flour (to shape) or plain flour
100g breadcrumbs or panko

Tartare Sauce

2 egg yolks
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp Dijon mustard
200ml olive oil
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
1 tbsp gherkins, finely chopped
1 tbsp capers, chopped
1 tbsp dill, chopped
1 tbsp flat-leaf parsley, chopped
juice of 1/2 lemon

Poach the smoked haddock

1. Poach the fish in milk (just enough to cover up to 1/3 of the fish) with the bay leaves for 10 minutes. Set aside to cool, then strain, skin and flake the fish to ensure there are no bones.

2. Mash the potatoes, mixing in the mustard, horseradish, lemon zest, capers and herbs. Season well then add the flaked fish.

3. Divide the fish mixture into small patty cakes (about 2.5 cm thick for starter/hors d’oeuvres size). Form into a shape then roll into the flour. Beat the egg in a separate bowl, dip the patties into it, then cover in the breadcrumbs or panko.

4. Chill for at least 30 minutes in the fridge until needed – this is when I make the tartare sauce. You could freeze the fishcakes at this point, placing them openly on a baking sheet. When frozen, transfer to containers and freeze for up to 3 months.

5. Fry in batches in hot olive oil for 5 minutes on each side until golden and crispy. Keep them warm until serving with the tartare sauce.

Make the tartare sauce. Ensure your ingredients are at room temperature to make the perfect sauce. This sauce can keep for 3 days in an airtight jar in the fridge, so it’s handy to make this in advance.

  1. Whisk the egg yolks, salt and mustard with a metallic whisk in a glass bowl. Gradually add the olive oil, dribbling it finely and regularly, whisking all the time. Once the mixture starts to thicken, add the white wine vinegar (use a good quality one.)
  2. Add all the remaining ingredients and mix well.

I wonder how on earth the Tartare sauce formed the map of Corsica? It wasn’t the Black Island but the ‘Island of Beauty’, as my Corsican husband calls it.

Who nose?

36 replies
  1. Christina @ Christina's Cucina
    Christina @ Christina's Cucina says:

    Oh my goodness! This made me laugh out loud, and I’m sorry to say it was when you said you fell right on “the hooter”! That just cracked me up! And you did NOT hand in that paper to your French teacher, right? Eeek!

    Now about those fish cakes! I cannot come by smoked haddock anywhere in LA, but I just received two beauties last week from Stonington Seafood in Maine! I used one to make Cullen Skink and Smoked Haddock with Leek and Mustard Sauce, but I have one left in the freezer for when my parents arrive. Problem is I want to make about 10 things with one fish!! 🙁 Now, add your fishcakes to the list, as they look so delicious! Lucky you to be able to find finnan haddies in Paris!

    • Jill Colonna
      Jill Colonna says:

      And I guess it was a hoot, right? That sounds such a lovely dish with leek and mustard sauce. Guess that fish left in the freezer must be so special! I have the same prize of oak-smoked salmon which is like gold – a lovely prezzie from Mum and Dad when they were over from Scotland. You know, it’s funny Christina – finnan haddies are called just “Haddock” in French. Everytime I tried to say fumé or smoked I got weird looks. Eglefin is normal haddock but smoked is just “haddock”.

  2. ping
    ping says:

    Archibald would kill for these fish cakes! I have some smoked salmon and happy to have read your answer to Claudia. Can’t wait to make these!

  3. Amrita
    Amrita says:

    I haven’t noticed the French but I was amused by Capt. Haddock’s nose too! So huge!! And I love how your haddock recipe led you to talk about Capt. Haddock! LOL But, these haddock fish-cakes sound delightful, I’m intrigued by what you seasoned your haddock fish cakes with 🙂

  4. Pauline
    Pauline says:

    Smoked haddock eh? Ok I can imagine a smoking haddock. My fav word for getting slighty wrong >< regularly is pastisserie, just one extra letter but lots of knowing glances. Anyway back to haddock fish pie or cakes, looks lovely, count me in!

  5. FreeSpiritEater
    FreeSpiritEater says:

    These look absolutely delicious Jill! Haven’t had fish cakes in a while, you’ve inspired me to attempt a version, since I’m not allowed to have some of these ingredients yet. Thanks for sharing, hope you’re having a fabulous weekend =]

  6. Maureen
    Maureen says:

    All my ancestors are French and when I was a kid I remember asking my mother if all old French men had big noses because when I went to church on Sunday every old man had a big nose. (most everyone in our town had a French background of some sort)

    My mother looked at me and said, “Maureen, that’s a very unkind thing to say.”

    “Well, they do!” I replied.

    Deciding to change the subject — “Let’s sing a song then,” she said.

    I laugh to this day that she started out with a little French song about how this woman cut the hairs in her nose to make a stylish hat. The style changed and the poor woman had no more nose hair.

    Your post has cracked me up.

    I look at family photos and every one of us has a French nose. Thankfully they aren’t so big that they need licenses. 🙂

    • Jill
      Jill says:

      I bet that’s a song that’s difficult to find on YouTube, Maureen! 🙂
      Now you’re cracking me up – can you imagine a hat like that? Bet nobody could turn their noses up at that one.

  7. Choc Chip Uru
    Choc Chip Uru says:

    What an awesome post – haha his nose does look like a huge overgrown strawberry (and it hasn’t even been bee stung :P)
    I love the Tin Tin series as does my dad who also adores fish so this is a perfect treat for him – wonderful!
    You have a cool blog 🙂

    Choc Chip Uru

  8. Hester @ Alchemy in the Kitchen
    Hester @ Alchemy in the Kitchen says:

    Thankfully the cousins inherited the big noses in our family. However, I am always happy to sniff out smoked haddock. I used to absolutely hate it, being the ‘fish-on-Fridays’ fish in my house. I have had a complete change of heart and now absolutely love it. Making these cakes. Love your little map of Corsica!

  9. easyfoodsmith
    easyfoodsmith says:

    Ha ha…your post made me laugh out aloud! As for the fish cakes, they look very appetising. Can’t wait to try them coz I have never tried fish cakes. Thanks for sharing your recipe.

  10. Belinda
    Belinda says:

    Oh, Jill, hahaha re. nose biz. And I will definitely try these recipes. Mum loves haddock and fishcakes. Put the two into one and she’ll love them! Thanks so much.

  11. Nami | Just One Cookbook
    Nami | Just One Cookbook says:

    How PRETTY! I love this dish! Let me think carefully…I’m pretty positive that I had never had “fish” cake. Crab cake yes but not fish. The smoked haddock sounds awesome. And the homemade tartar sauce? Hmm, yum. I tried making tartar sauce before but I don’t have favorite, so I’d love to try yours one day!

  12. Marsha @ The Harried Cook
    Marsha @ The Harried Cook says:

    Funnily enough, both my french teachers from when I was in school had humongous noses, especially one of them, and neither of them was even french! They were Indians who had grown up in France! Maybe it is a requirement if you want to teach french for a living? Must have big nose! LOL 😀 I adore fish cakes and these look soooooo yummy, Jill. And smoked too! Can I please move in with you and eat fishcakes and macarons all day long?

  13. Juliana
    Juliana says:

    Jill, what a great way to prepare fish cake…like the idea of using smoked one…looks delicious paired with the tartare sauce.
    Thanks for this recipe and hope you are having a great week 🙂

  14. Tina@flourtrader
    [email protected] says:

    I had sea bass last night and I am so ready to have some more seafood. Haddock is a tasty fish, but not one I have very often. These cakes look amazing, I would eat them irregardless if they were delivered to my table or made by someone with a huge nose!

  15. Liz
    Liz says:

    You are too funny, Jill…your nose discussion gave me a giggle 🙂 But back to serious issues, your fish cakes look fabulous…especially with your homemade tartar sauce. Double score for double delicious!



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