Thursday, 5 July 2012

Lincolnshire Life Food Heroes - Chapmans Fishcakes

... as part of my on-going series of Lincolnshire Food Heroes for Lincolnshire Life Magazine, here's my most recent article about the wonderful folk at Chapman's Fishcakes...

... here's a glimpse of the cooked thai fishcakes and some yummy home-made sweet chilli sauce that i'll be featuring in a recipe in my next post... 

Kevin and Paul Chapman – Chapman’s Fishcakes

Back in 1976 when Delia Smith gave us a recipe for Salmon Fishcakes in her now much lauded book Frugal Food, she could not have possibly known how this humble patty of potatoes, herbs and fish would become such a popular and enduring dish. Her recipe, which used tinned salmon, is now a family favourite in the homes of many of us up and down the country but perhaps over-taking them in the popularity stakes is another humble family recipe for fishcakes this time from Mavis Chapman and it was Mavis’ recipe that inspired two of her boys Kevin and Paul to launch the Chapman’s Fishcake company 5 years ago and it is with Mavis’s recipe that their company has grown, and continues to grow to this day.

the finished and packed fishcakes

Of course the Chapman’s Fishcakes use only the finest fresh fish, like their mothers, who would use the fish her husband Terry would bring back from his work on the docks in Grimsby and it was in Grimsby that I met Kevin and Paul in their new premises. 

The Chapmans are in great company too because whilst Grimsby may have changed quite considerably over the years, the town was once the largest fishing port in the world, the legacy and industry remains with many companies still working within the fish processing arena.  Grimsby is also still home to the largest fish market in the world and many of the big names in the fish-to-consumer market and it’s not only fish but many large food companies are based here bringing a new food industry to the town. 

mixed by hand, each mix produces 60 cakes

Kevin and Paul grew up surrounded by the world of fish, they both left school to go and work directly within their father’s company T Chapman and Sons and t was here that they learnt their trade, steaming crab that had been transported from Cornwall! It was the decline in the fishing industry since his father’s day that prompted Kevin to re-evaluate what the family company were doing and an obvious natural progression from fish-packing to fishcake making.  The Classic Fish and Parsley Fishcake was born and even won the prestigious Great Taste Award in its first year!  The Chapman boys have stuck closely to their mother’s recipe which means quality is of utmost priority and in true artisan style the fishcakes are made by hand in the factory using the finest local ingredients.

scooped out ready for hand-rolling

Maris Piper potatoes are sourced by local growers, which are first riddled and then steamed, after which they are hand-mashed and mixed with fresh herbs.  The fish is added last and carefully folded-in, again by hand, to ensure that large flakes of fish remain whole in the finished product.  The cakes are formed into patties are finally covered in a light breadcrumb before being packed ready to sell. The classic recipe also has a secret ingredient that is only known to the Chapman boys! The Classic Fish and Parsley fishcake uses only fillets of white fish such as haddock, coley or cod  which will change depending on what is best at the market on any given week, again much like whatever fish their father brought home, and  this fishcake has been popular from the start of the business when the boys used to sell them at farmers markets in Grimsby and the surrounding towns.  They now supply over 200 farm-shops covering the entire country and plan to expand into as many of the 7000 UK farm-shops and deli’s that will have them.  They have already taken on board a development chef who has increased their range to include a haddock, leek and cheddar cheese fishcake, a salmon with lemon and dill fishcake, a thai style salmon fishcake and my current favourite the smoked haddock and smoked bacon fishcake – another Great Taste Gold Award winner!

hand-rolled and then covered in breadcrumbs

The company now also produce a rather marvellous range of Fish Wellington’s as well as a Luxury Fish Pie and very tempting Haddock Bakes, all lovingly hand-made in the factory.

Maybe if I try enough of them I might be able to work out that secret ingredient know only to the Chapman’s and of course their late mother who sadly passed away before the boys founded their company although I am sure she would have been very proud of the finished product and her inspiring recipe that has become a legacy for us all to share… thank you Mavis!

All 13 products in the Chapman’s Fishcake range as well as a list of local stockists can be found on their website

Paul and Kevin with the team


  1. I grew up with fish cakes which are also quite popular in our East Coast provinces. Love the fact that this local company is doing so well.

  2. I adore fishcakes! Delighted to have found your blog - am a Norfolk dweller, and always a joy to find a blog by someone (relatively) close by! Off to explore more of your delicious recipes - and looking forward to tales of your book.
    Paula x

  3. I love the production photos :)
    Never had fishcakes, though :P :)

  4. Love to hear about companies like this that are doing so well.. and I do love fish cakes! Looking forward to the post with the recipe :)

  5. I am particularly fond of making various sorts of fishcakes. Thanks for sharing this article.

  6. That was interesting. I always buy several packs of their fishcakes when I see the at Louth Farmers Market. They are truly delicious. Nice to learn the history of the company.

  7. These fishcakes bring a lot of great childhood memories. As an adult I can only make them on occasion. I should give this Chapman’s Fishcakes a try. They look absolutely scrummy!

  8. Great informative article! I love fishcakes and will definitely look out for these next time I fancy some :)

  9. I LOVE regional companies like this and it is GREAT to see that they still make their fishcakes by hand too...GREAT post Dom!

  10. They look fantastic, properly home made. I'm impressed.

  11. We east coasters here in Canada, love our fish cakes. Lots of recipes abound, but there was this once, at a restaurant in Liverpool, N.S. the fish cakes were so delicious...but I just couldn't figure out what that mysterious/different ingredient was...turned out to be dried basil. I would never have guessed. Might that be it? Love a mystery))))

    Also, salt cod is generally preferred for fish cakes over here across the pond, soaked overnight and drained, used the next day to make the cakes. Everyone jazzes their recipe up for..ahem..their own signature dish)))

    How lucky you are to have a local company making them all ready, by hand, to take home to family. Fantastic looking and a business to be proud of.

  12. I'm not a fish-eater, so the fishcakes don't appeal to me but the thought of Rosemary oven chips is pretty good. Maybe you should make some at the weekend for with your Yorkshire "plates"?
    Chapman's is just the sort of local "Food Hero" company that I like - and you seem to have lots of them near you.


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