Cutlets To The Rescue…..

LilLassie is a pasta lover, especially with a creamy sauce. LilLoon gorges on rice and curry. Husband wants noodles and stir fries. They want to eat at different times. And Mother is left demented. Getting a meal on the table that will please all parties is a job in itself. I do not get paid either. I should. Really.

Cutlets sort out the issue. Beloved of all residents of Casa Smith,cutlets are this cook’s friend.What you call fishcakes, we (Indians) call cutlets and no, I don’t know why. These crunchy armoured, soft cakes were actually served as nibbles for family get togethers. Every aunty worth her embroidered sari had a stash of these in the freezer. I have three aunts (married to my dad’s brothers). One is excellent with the traditional fish cutlet, the other with beef and the third uses vegetables and is to die for. Basically its whatever protein you want, meat or fish or none, bound with a spiced potato mix, breadcrumbed and fried till golden and served with a fresh ‘chutney’ which usually means freshly grated coconut, green chilli, lime and coriander.


My tuna fishcakes happen to be the very first proper tea I made for my husband. I, had to call my mother about boiling an egg (Delia had not arrived in Abu Dhabi yet), so you will understand how such a task left me shaken, bothered and hot. Not to mention unattractive, with coriander in my hair and spices dusting my clothes and the work surface. Lets not even talk about the frying. I am still pained by it. Yet I managed it relatively unscathed and that too with a coriander chutney. Score! The tension with which I brought it to the table was tangible. My husband ate it, as I watched him, eager, terrified, determined to hear that he hated it. He ate some more. And more again. I was fuming. After finishing his plate, he said, “ That was superb! 10 out of 10. Can I have a few more please?” I think I loved him more that day.

From husband it moved on to the children, and they love these too, for which I am grateful! Traditionally, the freshest, stiffest mackarel is used for these cakes. I, being the shortcut loving wifey I am, use tinned tuna, which makes this a superb pantry meal. There is garam masala to purchase but it will last you a good while providing you with heaps of meals. I have used leftover fillets of fish to excellent effect as well. Also it makes a great lunch when you have people over as its affordable, easy to make, tastes wonderful and is filling but not vulgarly so. I tend to do all the rolling, breadcrumbing bit in advance and leave it like that until guests have arrived. Then I crack on with browning them, which warms them up in a matter of minutes if your oil is hot enough. I have also done the whole lot in advance and left it in a low oven. You do lose a bit of that fresh crispy edge, but really that’s splitting hairs. This recipe is a blueprint and I often chop and change ingredients depending on what I have. So please, make this your own.

Indian Tuna Cutlets

Recipe Serves: 4 as starter or 2 gloriously greedy people! Or make twee ones and serve as nibblies.

1 tin of tuna, brine or oil. I like John west’s no drain.
1 medium onion, chopped finely
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1″ piece of ginger, crushed
1 heaped teaspoon of garam masala (or a combo of coriander and cumin, or even your supermarket curry powder would do the job)
1 medium potato, made into mash (without butter or only a touch, you want this to be stiff)
2 large handfuls of chopped fresh coriander. I use the stalks and leaves together
2 green chillies, seeded and finely chopped (optional)
salt to taste and lots of freshly ground pepper
lemon juice to taste
2 eggs, beaten
breadcrumbs (freshly made with white or brown bread or the stale variety or panko which is my favourite or ones from the  supermarket..anything!)
Oil as needed.

Sautee your onion in veg/rapeseed/sunflower oil until soft and add the garlic and ginger to soften and cook for around a minute. I sometimes cook the onion in the oil that the tuna is canned in for more flavour.

Then add the masala powder of your choice and keep cooking gently until wonderfully aromatic.

Add the tuna and warm through, being careful not to overheat or it will get tough.

Take off heat, put into a large bowl, add the mashed tatties, green chillies, if using, and mix well. Then chuck in the coriander, it should fleck intensely through the mix and perfume it with flavour. So add more if you’d like to. Add the lemon juice, salt and pepper. Have a taste. It should be zingy enough with the lemon to lift all the other flavours.

Shape into patties, whatever size you prefer, dip into the beaten egg, cover thickly with breadcrumbs.

Heat enough oil in a large pan to come up just under half the height of the patties (this ensures you get an even browning on all sides, though i don’t usually and just do enough to get the bottom and top golden and crisp). Add when hot, fry till golden and drain on kitchen paper.

Serve with a coriander and mint chutney.


Coriander Raita (all to taste)
Blitz coriander, mint, green chilli (if you want) with some yoghurt and salt with a touch of lime juice.

Salad in picture
Shaved cucumbers dressed with rice wine vinegar with sugar dissolved in it.

Recipe Notes:
I have stipulated 1 tsp of garam masala, but I find that the potency varies hugely. I get mine from an indian grocers and find they are more powerful than the supermarket counterparts. So after you add the tuna, have a taste, you should really feel the spice come alive in your mouth even if it is a bit too much, which is perfect as you have to flavour the mashed potatoes as well. So add more, cautiously,  if you feel it needs it. I also find that, a tomato sliced and adorned with finely chopped spring onions, dressed with a touch of red wine vinegar, lots of pepper and some salt, the very thing to accompany it.


34 thoughts on “Cutlets To The Rescue…..

  1. Julia Levy

    Ha ha, cutlets it is in our world too. I grew up eating salmon cutlets made with canned John West Salmon and yes my mum did once make them with tuna too. We use matzo meal and not breadcrumbs and serve them room temp with green salad and potato salads. Not had them for years, remind me to ‘order’ them next time I visit.

    Another lovely post and nice photos.

  2. jobakes

    Oh I just love how much more I am getting to know you through your blog Carrie, it’s just wonderful. And I love “the first thing I cooked” stories – such an intimate, if somewhat painful, thing to do – cooking for some one whonmakes your heart flutter! FYI, I believe this recipe was the first one I wrote down of yours back on the old days. I love fishcakes and the Hungry Hubby does too – may well have to reintroduce these babies (with those very yummy looking sides too). Mwah x

    1. thePatternedPlate

      Oh painful it was Jo, literally!! Ha! But it was the start of something, it was then I began to understand how food could please, and ease and all that good stuff!!! Aww love the thought of you scribbling the recipe! Thanks love! Mwah!

  3. NYinRome

    Oh yes! the first time I ever hooked up with you was with this recipe…..and I am still making them today and even I every so often have a few of Cmd’sTuna Cakes in the freezer ready to fry up and dish out to my little family…..yes yes yes…..they have gotten even better than the first time around. And I’ll let you in on this too, it has opened my little ones palettes to new flavors and smells… was definitely a turning point for them…..those little fish cakes…
    Great courage sharing it all!

    1. thePatternedPlate

      Oh WOW Terry! I am very very very pleased, ecstatic actually that my humble fishcakes have become such a staple in your repertoire! And happy to know that the kids, especially, like them! It is a gentle way to ease kids into new tastes isn’t it? Clapping hands, stupid grin happy!!!

  4. eat little bird

    These cutlets look so delicious! I think it is the first time I’ve heard fishcakes called cutlets instead. We are going away this weekend and hubby has “ordered” me to make something from the bits and pieces in the fridge … it looks like I have most of the ingredients on hand except for the tuna! Well, I have to go and buy bread anyway … will let you know if I end up making these tonight 🙂 Lovely post as always.

      1. eat little bird

        Carrie, I made these last night and they are hands down the BEST EVER fishcakes!!! I love the use of garam masala, ginger, chillies and coriander in this recipe. The fishcakes are so flavoursome and I think this will be my go-to recipe from hereon 🙂 Hubby also loved them and, you know how he rarely gives compliments about my cooking, last night he started complimenting as I was frying the fishcakes! So a total winner of a recipe 🙂 I love how you are always giving me ideas on what to cook!

  5. juliaibbini

    You made these years ago when we first started doing little ‘dinner parties’ together with our husbands (I seem to remember you were a nervous wreck again that night) and I loved them and then had them again recently at your mum’s with the fresh fish and they were fab too. The spices in them strike a perfect balance and my mouth is watering just thinking about them! Your photographs are stunning as always. xxx

    1. thePatternedPlate

      JOUELS!!!!! Aye I was thinking of you typing this post….but the reason YOU did not get a mention here is because there’s a more pertinent post coming up regarding our Parisian trip! Umm yes, I was a wreck wasn’t I? LOL! Nothing’s changed. :-). I also recall one time when you were coming over and you got a smell of these cakes as soon as the lift opened and were hoping it originated from my kitchen! Which it did! Good days, good days!

  6. Pingback: Fishcakes with Coriander, Ginger & Chillies | eat little bird

  7. Sean McGinn

    I found these in our fridge one day, and got to say wasn’t impressed. I mean tuna fishcakes! not exactly michelin star food is it. What I wasn’t told were that they were YOUR fish cakes or that they had been ‘pimped’. Love these beauties so tasty, especially love the mini ones that get cooked off and fed to me on kitchen paper to eat while the real meal is being cooked.

    You never forget the first meal the lady cooks for you! Though I wish I could forget the first I cooked for her!

  8. Jean

    Fantastic photography as well as storyline – I love the wee pic on the right of the cutlets frying with the perfect gleaming bubble of hot oil. (I HATE tuna but I’ll have to try these…)

    1. thePatternedPlate

      Thanks Love!! Feel free to sub in some tender lamb mince Jean. It will work particularly well, just keep cooking it at the part where you add the tuna…..maybe up the spice a wee bit too…rest of it can remain the same…ooh oooh left over curry or rather meat, can be put to good use this way too….. :-))

  9. Joost Poort

    Caroline, I love the blog and this recipe! I’m not eating meat at the moment (might even become a permanent thing, who knows) and would love to make the veggie version of these. What filling would you make and how would you cook it, please?

    1. thePatternedPlate

      Hey Joost! Lovely to ´see´ you here! Traditionally a veggie rough mash of potatoes, peas and carrots would be used instead of meat. I would also leave out garam masala in this case and go with coriander and cumin as its less harsh. You could also try it with sweet potato (mixed in with some normal tattie mash to stiffen it a bit) and carrots too, both of which go superbly with cumin particularly. The rest of the ingredients could be kept the same. But really this is a blueprint…follow yer tastebuds!!! And I would love to know how you get on!! 🙂

  10. Pingback: Fish Cakes with Coriander, Ginger & Chillies

  11. Lisa Nicol

    Carrie. how are you my dear? Its been far too long…was sorting out my emails and came accross your blog….wow its amazing 🙂 You are such a talent my girl…….I remember you making these cutlets for Jen and I and they are just truly delicious….I printed the recipe yesterday and took off to tesco and bingo made then for Jeffs tea last night ……what a hit !!!
    Been looking at your blog on and off all day. loving the memories of the good times sitting on our monday meetings with the kids (fighthing – ha ha!!) enjoying good food and good company. Think of you lots and miss you. Hope you, Brad and kids doing great …..lots of Love Lisa XXXX

  12. thePatternedPlate

    Hey!! A shot out of the blue! Thanks for posting Lisa! I remember this as being the fall back recipe when you guys came over…miss those mondays! Glad to hear that Jeff approves too! We’re all doing well…catch up with you soon hun! xxxxx

  13. Amélie

    Hello! Lovely post, nice pictures and above all craving for those little “cutlets” can’t wait to make them!
    A question though: when you say 1 tin of tuna, are you talking about the typical one (small one), how much grams does it say it weighs on the tin?
    Thank you!

  14. The healthy little kitchen by Jill

    Hi Caroline,

    Just wanted to say I really enjoyed reading your blog and your pictures are great. I can’t wait to try this recipe, just wanted to ask if you or your aunties ever substitute in chick peas into the vegetarian style besides the potato and carrot mash. I like the idea of a sweet potato chickpea cutlet but I am not sure about the spices. Thank you!

    1. Caroline @ The Patterned Plate

      Hello Jill, thank you for the compliments. Chickpeas aren’t traditionally used but I don’t see why you can’t incorporate them. They work superbly with any kind of spice.

      If you are using sweet potato, leave them to drain for a fair bit after boiling/steaming as they hold more water than regular tatties. Or bake them and mash up. Both chickpeas and sweet potato work beautifully with spices. Cumin particularly is gorgeous with them. I’d use cumin and coriander powder as well as lots of fresh coriander, red chillies and lime. Hope this helps 😀

      1. The healthy little kitchen by Jill

        Hi Caroline,

        Wow – Fresh coriander and chilli is something I love as a combo. Thanks for the tip about the sweet potato, I didn’t think about the water content after cooking compared with regular potato and the spice combo you’ve recommended to go with it sounds good, and delicious. I will try to do your recipe justice! Thanks again 🙂

  15. Pingback: Kids & Cutlets | THE PATTERNED PLATE

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