Easy Smoked mackerel fish cakes with Creamy pesto

This recipe used up all of the leftover ingredients to create a delicious, healthy dish with minimum effort and minimum spend. I’ve chosen smoked mackerel because it’s full of goodness, kind to your bank balance and of course delicious

‘Leftovers’ Smoked Mackerel Fishcakes with Creamy Pesto by @coxys_kitchen

I don’t know about you, but I always seem to have the same five leftover ingredients sitting sorry in my kitchen and fridge:

  1. Mashed potatoes – usually left over from a Sunday lunch
  2. Stale bread
  3. Parmesan ends
  4. Green veggies that have seen better days
  5. A random selection of nuts

This recipe used up all of the above leftover ingredients to create a delicious, healthy dish with minimum effort and minimum spend. I’ve chosen smoked mackerel because it’s full of goodness, kind to your bank balance and of course delicious – but if you prefer a fish that doesn’t carry such a strong flavour, salmon, haddock or cod works just as well.

First can we talk about pesto?


When we talk about pesto we are often referring to the traditional Genoese basil pesto, but the word ‘pesto,’ originating from the Italian word ‘pestare,’ meaning to pound or crush, can be used to describe many different variations of pastes.

Wilted old veggies that have lived their best life are perfect for making pesto. Whilst they may no longer look the part or taste very nice, don’t give up on them – introduce them to other ‘end-of-life’ ingredients and transform them into something new and a delicious like this vibrant green pesto.

Veggies, leaves and herbs you can use to make pesto

Green beans, tenderstem broccoli, broccoli, mangetout, sugar snap peas, peas, rocket, lambs lettuce, spinach, basil, parsley, mint.

Nuts you can use to make pesto

Almonds, walnuts, pine nuts, brazil nuts, hazelnuts, macadamia nuts.

Cheeses you can use to make pesto

Parmesan, grana padano, pecorino, cheddar and vegetarian hard cheese substitutes.

This zingy, Creamy Green Pesto works as a great accompaniment to these Smoked Mackerel Fishcakes. It cuts through the oiliness from the mackerel, creating a perfectly balanced dish and a treat for the taste buds!

Creamy Green Pesto

Recipe makes approx. 400g

Preparation time: 5 minutes

Cooking time: 5 minutes, if blanching veg


  • 200g green vegetables, leaves and herbs of your choice; this recipe uses:
    • 100g sugar snap peas (that have seen better days)
    • 100g frozen peas, defrosted
    • Large handful of lambs lettuce (just starting to wilt)
  • 25g nuts of your choice; this recipe uses almonds with the skins left on
  • 25g cheese of your choice; this recipe uses parmesan
  • 1 large clove of garlic
  • 50ml olive oil
  • 2 tsp sea salt
  • Ground black pepper to taste
  • Juice from half a lemon


  1. Place all the ingredients into a liquidiser or food processor and blend until you have a smooth paste. If the mix isn’t blending (you often find this when using a liquidiser), add some water or a touch more olive oil to loosen the mix
  2. Once smooth, taste the mixture and adjust the seasoning with salt, pepper or lemon juice
  3. Transfer to an airtight container

How to store

The pesto will keep in the fridge in an airtight container for up to a week and in the freezer for up to 6 months. If freezing, the colour will darken and the texture may lose it’s creaminess, but the taste will still be delicious!

TIP 1: If you don’t have a liquidiser or food processor, chop the all the ingredients so they are small, then use a pestle and mortar until you have the desired consistency.

TIP 2: If using fresh veggies, blanche them for a few minutes in boiling water to soften them, then drain and run under cold water, or add them to a bowl of iced water to cool them down fast – this will also help to retain the vibrant green colour.

TIP 3: For a more coarse and less creamy pesto, double the amount of nuts and parmesan.

TIP 4: If you have veggies that have gone past their best, but not enough to make pesto, keep them in the freezer until you have enough to work with.

Smoked Mackerel Fishcakes

Coxys Kitchen fish cakes

Recipe makes 2 large fishcakes, or 4 small ones

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: 20 minutes

For the potato and fish mix:

  • 300g firm mashed potato
  • 1 medium-large smoked mackerel fillet, skin removed and flaked (check and remove any bones; the small fine ones won’t matter)
  • Handful of finely chopped parsley or chives
  • 1 Tbsp horseradish or Dijon mustard
  • 1 egg

For coating and cooking:

  • 50g breadcrumbs made from dry, stale bread (if using shop-bought breadcrumbs, the Japanese Panko ones work best)
  • 50g plain flour
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • Olive oil for cooking


  1. With the exception of the mackerel and egg, add all the potato and fish mix ingredients to a large bowl and mix well. Taste the mixture and if necessary adjust the seasoning by adding more herbs, horseradish or mustard, or salt and pepper. When happy with the taste, add the egg and incorporate into the mixture
  2. Once everything is well combined, add the flaked mackerel and gently stir to keep the flakes as in tact as possible
  3. Halve or quarter the mixture, then with your hands, roll into balls. Place each ball on to a floured board and gently flatten with the palm of your hand to create a fishcake shape. Go around the edges to smooth the sides and create I nice round shape

For the coating

  1. To make the breadcrumbs, tear the stale bread into pieces and blitz in a food processor until you have coarse breadcrumbs – don’t blitz too much or you will end up with a powder
  2. Take three medium bowls: put the flour into the first one, crack and beat the egg into the second bowl and add the breadcrumbs to the third
  3. Take a fish cake, then coat it in the flour until coated all over, then repeat the process and coat in the beaten egg and finally coat in the breadcrumbs and place on to the clean side of the wooden board
  4. Pre-heat the oven to 200c/Gas Mark 6
  5. To cook the fishcakes, heat 2 Tbsp of oil in a large frying pan, then fry the fishcakes for a couple of minutes on each side until the breadcrumbs have turned nice and golden. Transfer the fishcakes to a baking tray and cook in the oven for 15 minute until the centre is fully heated through
  6. Serve with a good helping of pesto and a lightly dressed side salad

TIP 1: If the potato mixture is too loose, adding breadcrumbs into the mix will help to firm it up.

TIP 2: Wetting your hands will help to prevent the mixture sticking when shaping into fishcakes.

TIP 3: If you don’t have a food processor, use a box grater to grate the bread and create the breadcrumbs.

About Coxy’s Kitchen Coxy’s Kitchen provides a private dining and home-cooking service throughout Yorkshire. With Christmas just around the corner, why not book Coxy’s Kitchen to cook at your Christmas dinner or drinks party. To make an initial enquiry, email coxyskitchen@icloud.com

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