Machchi na cutless

Machchi na cutless

Fish cakes with tomato sauce

Mr Todiwala's Bombay
Helen Cathcart

This is a simple fish cake recipe and one which many Parsee mums create out of leftovers so it doesn’t have to be copied exactly – adapt it to suit what you have to hand. However, to get a good authentic result, it’s worth following it at first so you get to know the cultural differences and can understand the background to the flavourings we use and the likes and dislikes of our Parsee community. The tomato sauce will keep for quite a long time in the refrigerator provided it is kept well covered, you do not insert a wet spoon into it and you keep the edges clean. It is useful to serve with many other foods such as meat or vegetable patties, battered fish, chicken or rice dishes.

Tomato sauce


Quantity Ingredient
2-3 tablespoons sunflower or rapeseed oil
2 x 2.5 cm pieces cinnamon stick
2 large whole dried red chillies, broken into three or four pieces
3-4 cloves, (optional)
2 smallish onions, finely chopped
1 tablespoon ginger and garlic paste
4-5 tomatoes, chopped
1 tablespoon malt vinegar
1 tablespoon jaggery or muscovado sugar
1/2 tablespoon tamarind paste, (optional)
salt, to taste

Fish cakes

Quantity Ingredient
250g white fish fillet, skinned
1 large green chilli, finely chopped
2.5 cm piece fresh ginger, finely chopped
6-8 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 tablespoons coriander leaves, chopped
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 egg
2 slices white bread, soaked briefly in water and squeezed out

To finish

Quantity Ingredient
100g plain flour
2-3 eggs
oil, for shallow-frying


  1. First make the tomato sauce. Heat the oil in a heavy-based saucepan or a flameproof casserole dish, over a medium heat. Add the cinnamon sticks and sauté until deep brown in colour and swollen but not burnt. Add the red chillies and cloves and after about 20 seconds add the chopped onions and sauté gently for 3–4 minutes until they are soft but not brown. Add the ginger and garlic paste and sauté for a further minute or so.
  2. Stir in the tomatoes, vinegar, jaggery 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. Now prepare the fish cakes. If you have a mincer 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. Blend all the chopped ingredients into the mince and mix well almost kneading it 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 mix 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 your palms.
  6. To check the seasoning, fry a tiny piece fry of the mixture and taste. When you are happy with it, divide the mix 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 5 mm 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. Flatten each ball until about 1 cm thick, smooth the edges so that they or nor jagged or uneven, coat in the flour, then the beaten egg, draining off excess. If the egg is well-beaten you will get a nice frilly texture.
  8. Fry the cakes in batches for 2–3 minutes on each side until golden brown. Drain on paper towels. Remove the cinnamon and cloves from the sauce, if preferred and reheat, if serving hot. Serve the fishcakes hot or cold with the sauce. They are also good served cold in soft rolls as a snack meal like a sandwich.
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