Turmeric fish balls with sunflower seeds and rocket leaves

By Ghillie Basan

Fish balls, or cakes, are very versatile and ideal for the mezze table. The flesh of almost any fresh fish can be used, and cans of cooked tuna work well too. Typical flavours for Middle Eastern fish balls include chillies, cumin, coriander, turmeric, saffron and cinnamon, as well as lots of fresh herbs, depending on the region they originate from. Refresh these balls with lime or lemon, or serve them with a garlicky nut sauce, or a smidgeon of harissa.
Serves 4–6


  • 2 tbsp sunflower seeds (reserve a few for garnishing)
  • 450 g fresh white fish fillets, such as haddock or sea bass
  • 2 slices day-old bread, soaked in a little water and squeezed dry
  • 1 red onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 fresh green or red chilli, stalk and seeds removed, and finely chopped
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1–2 tsp ground turmeric
  • A small bunch of fresh flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
  • A small bunch of fresh coriander, finely chopped (reserve a little for garnishing)
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • Sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 3–4 tbsp plain flour
  • 2 tbsp Samna, (or 2 tbsp olive oil with a knob of butter)
  • A bunch of rocket leaves, rinsed and drained
  • 1–2 limes or lemons, cut into wedges


First, dry roast the sunflower seeds. Heat a small heavy-based frying pan and toss in the sunflower seeds for 1–2 minutes, until they brown a little and emit a nutty aroma. Tip them onto a plate and put aside.

In a bowl, break up the fish fillets with a fork. Add the bread, onion, garlic, chilli, cumin, turmeric and most of the sunflower seeds. Toss in the fresh herbs and mix well with the beaten the egg.

Using your hands, mould portions of the mixture into small apricot-sized balls. Toss them in the flour.

Heat the samna (or olive oil and butter) in a wide shallow frying pan and fry the fish cakes in batches until golden brown on both sides. Drain them on paper towels.

Arrange the rocket leaves and fish cakes on a dish, or wrap a leaf around each fish cake. Garnish with the reserved sprinkling of sunflower seeds and the reserved coriander and serve with wedges of lime or lemon to squeeze over them.


Related Seafood