A white plate with bird motif, topped with creamy mashed potato and 4 fish balls in a red tomato sauce

I grew up eating a lot of river fish – which, back then, I found just a bit too overpowering. Those same fish, however, were more than palatable in the fishballs my mum made. Full of magical childhood flavours, they are now, luckily, also enjoyed by my son, especially when they come with mash. They are also pretty good in a lunchbox, at room temperature over some couscous.

I always felt there was something quite Nordic about fishballs – perhaps there was mention of fish frikadellen in Tove Jansson’s Moomin stories or Astrid Lindgren’s ‘Karlsson on the Roof’ books, I cannot recall. But when I eat these, I always think of being hygge-warm in my childhood home, reading and eating – still my favourite pastimes to this day.

This recipe is extracted from Summer Kitchens by Olia Hercules (£26, Bloomsbury). Photography © Elena Heatherwick and Joe Woodhouse

Ingredients for fishballs Serves: 2

  • 1 small onion, roughly chopped 1 garlic clove, roughly chopped
  • 300g fillet of pollack or similar
  • 1–2 tbsp fine semolina
  • A little beaten egg – optional
  • 2 tbsp rapeseed or vegetable oil
  • Sea salt and black pepper

Ingredients for tomato sauce

Method for fishballs in tomato sauce

  1. First make the tomato sauce. Heat the oil in a saucepan over a medium heat, then add the onion and a pinch of salt and cook, stirring, until translucent and just starting to turn golden. Add the bay leaf and tomato purée and cook for a minute or so, then add the tinned tomatoes and season with salt and pepper. (My mum also adds a pinch of sugar, but I don’t.) Let the sauce reduce a little, then stir in the crème fraîche and switch off the heat. Taste for seasoning and adjust accordingly.
  2. Now for the fishballs. My son and I like this comforting kid’s version: put the onion, garlic, a generous pinch of salt and some pepper into a food processor, then pulse until well chopped. Now add the fish and semolina and pulse again a couple of times. You will end up with a homogenous, sticky mixture, but it shouldn’t look too pulverised. (If you want a more adult version, finely chop the onion, garlic and fish by hand, then add the semolina and a little beaten egg to help bind the mixture.) With wet hands, form into ten 40g fishballs and pop them on a plate or tray.
  3. Heat the oil in a non-stick frying pan over a medium heat and brown the fishballs, in batches, on all sides. Take care when flipping them, as they may be delicate.
  4. Slip the browned fishballs into the tomato sauce, making sure they are submerged, and cook over a low heat for 10–15 minutes, until cooked through.
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