My grandmother will never be remembered for her cookery. But this is one recipe that she served well. She would have made it with tinned salmon and it was clearly something that came from her childhood. She wouldn’t have been what we would call poor but she grew up in the Depression era 1930’s and then dropped out of university to join the war effort as a lens grinder in the Bausch and Lomb factory during the food rationing 1940’s. After that she raised two children alone when-unusually for the time- she flew to Mexico City to divorce an abusive husband and when she finally finished her nursing degree she spent her career as a public health nurse helping immigrants to acclimatze to New York City. Her cooking was therefore one of practicality both in preparation and ingredients.
Tinned food was extremely popular in the US. Salmon in the tin allowed you to keep to keep a protein for long periods as well as always have something in the cupboard to whip out. Most importantly it was dead cheap. Certainly cheaper than buying fresh. Salmon cakes was my grandmother’s go- to recipe for breakfast, lunch or dinner and she would often serve it with hot buttered rice for a main or with scrambled eggs for breakfast. She could make it in a various ways depending on what was left in the cupboard and it would literally be together in 20 minutes. 30 minutes if you add taking your coat and shoes off at the door and turning on the television or radio for company.
This is also a great recipe for extending your salmon. I make it with fresh rather than tinned salmon, which you can’t get here. In Kosovo, fresh salmon is a bit pricey but if you wanted a change from say, chicken, and to make it for at least two or three people this is a great recipe.
Head to Taunita on Josip Rela in Prishtina for excellent fresh fish brought in daily. For dry seasonings try Tregu e Glebert near the Minimax sign on UÇK or Market Albana on UÇK for excellent fresh and dried seasonings and products.
Depending on your cake size this serves 2 or 3 with sides like rice, mashed potato, ajvar or grilled vegetables.
2 pieces of salmon
1/2 cup of bread crumbs
1 large egg or 2 small ones
2 small garlic cloves
1/2 a large onion or 1 small onion
1 teaspoon of coriander powder
Season with pepper, salt and oregano to taste
Chop up the salmon and put in a bowl ensuring that that you’ve removed all the bones. You may want to smash the salmon to crush any smaller bones. Dice the onion into small pieces add to fish. Add bread crumbs and then seasoning. Make sure it’s like a paste, not too wet or too dry. Form into balls or small patties and place into a hot oiled pan. I use olive oil but any sunflower or corn oil is fine. Make sure the pan and oil are quite hot before adding the patties. Cook on each side no more the 60 seconds depending on thickness. If you over cook you dry them out.
Eat hot. Preferably standing up at the stove. They’ll also hold in the refrigerator for a few days or the freezer for longer, to be warmed up later if you want make a batch.