WHAKATANE'S Wild Cook Mawera Karetai is passionate about food. She prides herself on keeping her freezer and pantry stocked with mostly foraged food and over coming months will be sharing some of her favourite recipes with readers.
My husband Dave is a trout fisherman; a really good trout fisherman. We love eating trout, and we eat quite a bit of it over the summer months. Ocean fish is something we also enjoy but not something we get often. When we do it is a real treat.
This weekend some friends with a big boat dropped off some fresh fish, so we have had a feast. Last night I smoked the last of the kahawai and used them to make some delicious fish cakes.
Kahawai is hands-down my favourite ocean fish. I like it raw, crumbed, steamed, smoked, or any other way I can get it. Fresh is best with kahawai, but if you can’t use it straight away, smoke it. Smoked kahawai freezes really well and it is by far the best way to keep it long-term.
Nutritionally speaking, Kahawai is one of the best. It is a good source of vitamin D, B12, selenium, iodine, B3, vitamin A and phosphorus. It is low in bad fat and is a very good source of omega 3, with over 1000mg per 100gms of fish – it gets the biggest tick from the Heart Foundation.
Kahawai is not just found in New Zealand. Our Australian neighbours also have kahawai, but they call it a salmon. It has many names in Australia, including eastern Australian salmon, colonial salmon and black-backed salmon. It is not at all related to the salmon family as it is from the Arripis family, and not the family Salmonidae.
At the moment kahawai are chasing whitebait. If you live near a river mouth you will catch kahawai easily on bait, a lure and even on a fly.
One of our favourite family adventures is to go down to the wharf before first light and cast a fly. The lights on the wharf bring insects, who bring in the small fish, who bring in the kahawai, who bring us. Perfect. Fishing is family fun.
Smoked Kahawai Fish Cakes
450g skinned, boned smoked fish
350g potatoes (plus butter and milk to mash)
2 tsp Italian herbs
1 tbsp fresh white flatleaf parsley, chopped
2 whole spring onions
Pepper and salt to taste
flour, for shaping
Breadcrumbs to coat
3-4 tbsp good oil, for shallow frying
Clean and chop the potatoes into even-sized chunks. There is no need to peel them if the outside is clean. Put them in a pot and just cover them with boiling water. Add a pinch of salt, bring back to the boil and simmer for 10 minutes or until tender, but not broken up.
While the potato is cooking, peel the skin from the smoked fish and break up into chunks. Finely slice the spring onions and add to the fish with pepper, salt and herbs.
Once the potatoes are cooked, mash with a little butter and milk. Add into the fish mixture and gently bring the mixture together. Add in one beaten egg to bind.
Mix remaining egg and milk in a shallow bowl. Half fill a second shallow bowl with standard flour. Half fill a third shallow bowl with breadcrumbs.
Taking a handful of the fish mixture, gently form into a cake and dip in the flour to coat. Remove from flour and dip in the egg-milk mixture.
Remove and coat in breadcrumbs. Set aside and continue making cakes until the fish mixture is used up.
On a medium heat, add oil to a frying pan and then three of four fish cakes at a time. Do not overcrowd your pan. Turn when golden and cook the other side.
Serve with a green salad and a generous dollop of good mayonnaise (homemade is the best).
By Marewa Karetai