One item is always present in our kitchen. It’s the Finnish cooking book Homefood (“Kotiruoka”). The book was originally published in 1908 and my version is the 70th edition. Its recipes are the foundation of many dishes cooked in our kitchen so once again I found myself browsing the book as the pikes that we caught on our winter fishing trip were sitting in the fridge waiting to be cooked.
The recipe I chose from the book is Fish balls, more specifically traditional Finnish pike balls. I cooked half of the pike fillets in the traditional way because I knew that they are my family’s favorite. The other half I cooked in a different way, seasoning and serving them in a more modern way. The result was a positive surprise to me so I want to share the recipe here with you!
Please note: In Finland pike is commonly used in fish balls, but you can use any other whitefish in all pike recipes. For fish balls, I suggest using fish that is reasonably priced and that has a mild flavor. In Finland, that would be pike. Affordable mild fish may not sound ideal for cooking but it doesn’t mean that you couldn’t turn it into delicious fish balls!
Ingredients for basic fish balls / pike balls
- 500 g fresh pike fillet
- 2 eggs
- 2 dl cream
- 1-1 1/2 tsp salt
- lemon juice
- chopped dill
How to vary the basic recipe
- Instead of dill, add one flavor ingredient into the fish ball batter or serve as garnish. You can use e.g. herbs, fresh or frozen spinach, grated carrot or garlic.
This time I varied the fish ball recipe with spinach, garlic and our favorite herb coriander. The coriander version turned out to be our favorite.
Instructions for the recipe:
- Cut fish fillet into small pieces
- Mash all ingredients in a blender so that the dough is smooth
Tip! Making fish ball dough can be a tough job for your blender. Add a little bit of fish and liquid alternately to get a nice and smooth dough.
3. Roll the balls by hand. Water your hands a bit in between rolling the fish balls. That way the dough does not stick to your hands.
4. Bake 200ºC / 392ºF for 15 minutes or cook in a frying pan in butter 2-3 min on both sides
Baking fish balls in oven is the healthier option, but frying on a pan gives fish balls a more delicious look, in my opinion. And butter flavor suits the pike balls well, too.
Serving suggestions for fish balls:
A. Traditional Finnish style: serve pike balls with mashed potatoes and sour cream dill sauce.
B. Oriental style: serve pike balls with rice, soy sauce, lemon and some fresh herbs.
I recommend trying both ways so that you can form your own opinion! (My favorite was the latter one).
Why change something that works?
As I said in the beginning, the traditional Finnish style pike balls are a hit in our family. Often traditional Finnish dishes are quite heavy so it can be a good idea to add a twist to the recipe to make it lighter. More herbs and other flavor ingredients not only enhance flavors and bring variance to the recipe, but they also add nutrients.
But you don’t need to go to the other extreme from a good basic recipe to a very complicated and often expensive one. Just by adding one extra flavor may be enough to make it into a new dish. Sometimes changing the side dish will do the trick.
That’s what happened with the pike balls in our family. New flavors and inspiration from other kitchens ensure that pike ball tradition will continue in our family from one generation to another!
Need motivation for eating fish more often? Check out this article: 11 Evidence-Based Health Benefits of Eating Fish. But it’s all about the balance, I guess. Even though fish is good for you and the recommendation is to prefer fish over meat, it’s not necessary to eat either every single day. Instead, remember to have weekly 100% veggie days as well!