In thinking about this dish, my mind immediately goes to the humble fish and chip shop. Combining fish, potatoes, and peas is the principle upon which the British staple, fish and chips with mushy peas, is built. Hungry working-class citizens in Britain flock to fish and chip eateries across the nation to enjoy this dish. I've seen first-hand that even their travelling cricket fans tend to resort to sourcing it to stave off the effects of home sickness. Although proprietors put individual signatures on this classic, the basic elements remain the same. It thrives on its rustic simplicity, and more importantly, it thrives on being comforting and filling. So then, why even have a salmon and haddock fishcake? Why a caper anchovy dressing? I’ll tell you why!
I adore this dish, also a Gordon Ramsay creation, for its lightness, elegance, and effectiveness; that is to say, like a fish and chip, I find it to be filling and comforting. The mixture of salmon and whitefish has been done to delicious effect in many dishes, managing to be sweet and delicate but simultaneously hearty. Fresh herbs and perfect seasoning are essential, but what begins to elevate this dish into something special is the addition of a little lemon zest and lemon juice to the mashed potatoes. The fish is immediately uplifted by citrus. That’s only the beginning! Salty marinated anchovies, sweet delicate shallots, dark green and gold olive oil, and sharp vibrant capers all brought together by fresh parsley make up the dressing. At the end of the day, this is the reason this dish is truly outstanding. The combination of flavors manages to project that ever elusive harmony that recipes strive for. This dish puts a microscope on what makes good food, respect for tradition, focus on comfort, simple ingredients prepared simply, and of course, an understanding of flavor and textural balance. One final thought, depending on where you are, once you maintain critical balance with local ingredients the dish will maintain its integrity. On vacation in the Caribbean, I used tamarind to delicious effect in the dressing, and wondered about the flavor resemblance of pickled bilimbi (also known as souree in Guyana) to capers. Don’t be afraid to experiment!