Sep 29

Help!! There isn’t any food in the house!



Once in a while there comes a time when I take a break from the grocery shopping to finish up leftovers and what not in the fridge. And once in a while I get overly comfortable and really forget that all the leftovers have gone;  there really isn’t any food left in the house. At times like these its time to get creative, look a bit harder and take stock about what’s actually in that pantry cupboard. Over the years I have become pretty good at this and it is what my ex-flatmate used to term “Viv making something out of thin air”.


I came up with 2 cans of tuna in spring water. Hmmm. In the fridge there was half a bowl of boiled potatoes that’s been there a couple of days. The obvious solution : Tuna & Potato Cakes! But I have never made potato cakes before. I had to have a bit of a sit down and a think … possibly some reading up and I’ll throw in a YouTube tutorial or two along the way.


The idea of making potato cakes brought me back to the year 2009, when I whisked myself away to the island of Vanuatu for a solid solitary R&R session. Best impromtu holiday destination decision EVER!! 

The Republic of Vanuatu is a collection of volcanic islands that lie about 1,800 kilometres east of north Australia, in the South Pacific Ocean. Its capital is Port Vila on the island of Efate, and it is the largest city and central economic hub of the republic. The predominant language spoken by the islanders is Bislama, but they would be just as happy to converse with you in either French or English.

Now back then, I didn’t know any of these facts. All I knew was that the previous year was pretty stressful and I wanted to get away for a bit. The idea of Vanuatu came to me in a not-so-blinding flash one night and the next day I quite literally walked into the travel agents’ office and walked out with tickets.

 ” Vanuatu please …. on the next possible flight available!”

 “Sure, next available afternoon flight will be in 10 days time, via Sydney.”

 “Cool! I’ll take it!”



Sometimes necessity becomes the mother of all invention ~ and I hadn’t even booked accommodation yet ~ but that was the easy bit. I must say I did a pretty good job at choosing a hotel. I ended up staying at 2 different places simply because my first choice was not available for the entire 5 days. The first hotel was a real joy to stay in ~ the Chantilly on the Bay. A very white building facing a brilliant blue lagoon. It is more apartment living than a hotel, for every room had a kitchenette and microwave facilities. The second hotel was on the private island of Erakor, about a 20 minute drive from my first hotel . Then you have to hop on a ferry. About 20 or so villas and bungalows are dotted around the island … all have sea views. It takes just minutes to get to by ferry from the main island and it was a mistake. Honeymooners paradise; not for solo traveller wanting a bit of adventure.


Ten days after booking my ticket, I dashed off to the airport having just come off my morning shift at the hospital and boarded my Qantas flight en route to Sydney, where I would then board my connecting flight on Air Vanuatu direct to the island of Efate. It takes about 2 hrs and a bit to get there from Sydney. By the time I arrived it was past midnight! I stepped off onto the tarmac and it was wet, very humid and the smell of rain was thick in the air …. ahhhh, the TROPICS!! The streets outside the airport were dark and the road from the airport to the main town was not lighted at all. A driver at the airport said he would take me but I was so nervous ~ Mummy always said never get in a vehicle with a stranger, especially if you are alone. And when I say it was dark I mean pitch black ~ I could not see my hand even if I held it in front of my face! The driver pulled up in a van … the likes that kidnappings take place in. I took a gulp and jumped in. I’m obviously just paranoid with an overly active (if not erratic) imagination.

The journey was a bumpy, white-knuckled experience in the back of the van. It was so dark and rainy, I couldn’t tell if we were going the right way or if he was taking me to a secluded banana plantation to rob me. I began thinking the worst, that maybe my bright idea to come on my own wasn’t such a bright idea after all. The road was unpaved and narrow. There was no moon, and the only things whizzing past the windows and slapping against the van were banana leaves. HEEEEELP!!!

After what seemed like an eternity, I finally caught a glimpse of street lights and lit buildings. My thumping heart, which by now had made its way up into my throat, began to calm down. The narrow road opened up, he rounded a bend then I could smell the ocean. HOORAAAYYY!! Banana plantations gave way to silhouettes of palm trees lazily swaying in the night. I could see lights of beach resorts and some had oil lamps. I was getting excited and my grip on the door handle (in case I needed to do a Keanu Reeves jump from a moving vehicle) eased considerably. And then we kinda just stopped abruptly.

“Missus, we are hee-yah!”

I looked out the window and blinked into the darkness and sure enough the sign said ‘Chantilly on the Bay’. Whew! I grabbed my things, paid the man and trudged up to the counter. Even at that hour the receptionist greeted me with such warmth and a huge smile I felt very welcomed indeed. I was told I was to find my room on the top most floor, and it was a sea-facing room. No lift available, but it was only the 4th floor. It was almost 1 am. I didn’t even bother unpacking, I just dived into bed, falling asleep instantly to the sound of lapping waves.

Now you might be wondering where on earth does this story lead to? What’s it got to do with making Tuna & Potato Cakes in Amsterdam??? Well I’m getting there okay!!


The next day I opened my eyes and a sliver of sunlight was peeking at me through the blinds. I bounced out of bed, peeled back the curtains and was simply blown away by the view that greeted me. They weren’t kidding when they said ‘Sea-Facing View’. It was faaaaan-tastic! OMG! What lay before me was a blue lagoon that went on and on. The island itself sits on a shelf and a reef blocks off the lagoon some distane away. So what you end up with is very shallow and protected waters with hardly any waves. Just one big salt water swimming pool …. with sand at the bottom. The water was very clear and it reflected the sky above like a mirror. Did not want to leave my balcony but there was an island to explore.



Breakfast came with the room, and it was pretty standard … but its all the other food that they serve up on the à la carte menu that I want to talk about. The hotel did not exude 5-star charm or even hint that its food would be any better, but I was actually pleasantly caught off guard in that respect.  That afternoon I chose to have a swim then take a late lunch up in my room, on the balcony overlooking the lagoon. I chose from the ‘Light Snacks’ list so that I could sample at least 2 different dishes and see what the kitchen had to offer.


Enter Smoked Marlin Croquette with Aioli, and the Pistachio Encrusted Goats Cheese with a Honey-Saffron Dressing and crackers. The cheese was really good, but the smoked marlin was something else altogether. It was a new taste for me. I’ve never had a croquette before and from that moment the memory of it was forever ingrained in my mind and on my tastebuds. The wonderful smokeiness mingling with the briney saltiness of the sea which was then dipped into a tangy garlic and mayo dip. Mmmm … good eats indeed.




Smoked Marlin Croquettes on the inside.


 Okay so now fast forward two years later, and we’re now in my kitchen in Amsterdam, clutching 2 cans of tuna and a bowl of leftover boiled potatoes. Hungry boyfriend on couch needs to be fed, and soon.


You will need :-

  • 2 cans of tuna chunks in water
  • 200 g boiled potatoes
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced (I simply grated mine directly into the mix)
  • 1 stalk spring onion
  • 30 g unsalted butter
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2 tsp Dijon mustard  (I didn’t have mustard so I used a tbsp of Hummous dip)
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • Fresh dill (optional)
  • salt & pepper.
  • 1 packet of breadcrumbs or panko


1. Preheat oven to 180°C. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat.

2. Smash potatoes in a bowl, leaving small bite sized chunks. Heat them for a minute in the microwave. Remove then stir in the butter, spring onions, garlic, mustard and lemon juice. Season generously with salt and pepper.

3. Crumble in the tuna chunks and give it a stir, followed by the egg yolk.

4. In a shallow bowl or dish, place the bread crumbs.

5. Form patties 1/2 inch thick and dip them into the bread crumbs to coat.

6. Place all the crumbed patties onto the lined baking sheet and chill in the fridge for 30 mins up to an hour to firm up.

7. Remove from fridge and fry them in a pan with some veggie oil for about 3-4 mins on one side. Flip them over then place the whole pan into the oven to finish off the cooking. If you don’t have a pan that goes directly from the stove to the oven, then just re-place them on the baking sheet and put that in the oven instead.

8. Bake for about 10 – 15 mins or until the crumb shell is golden and crisp. To finish off I placed some young Gouda cheese on top of each and returned them to the oven just until the cheese melted.

9. Serve just warm with cold iceburg lettuce, tartare sauce and lemon wedges.


**Tip – These make a great make-ahead starter for a casual summer lunch. Or simply make smaller sized bites for childrens’ parties. In my opinion they taste way better after a night sitting in the fridge. To reheat simply zap them in the microwave for 2 mins.






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1 comment

  1. Claire

    i dont even know why i’m reading the ‘fish’ category… but hey! pictures are nice!!

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