Put the fish in a bowl, cover with warm water and soak for 2 hours or longer, according to the saltiness and hardness of the fish. Drain, rinse, and place in a saucepan with boiling water to cover. Simmer gently, covered, until the fish is tender, about 15 minutes. Drain, remove any bones and skin, and shred fish finely.
Add the seasonings to taste with salt, if needed, and pepper. If the mixture is too loose, stir in a little more flour until it is firm enough to pick up with a spoon.
Heat the oil in a large, heavy frying pan. Spoon the batter in pan and fry the fishcakes, as many at a time as the pan will conveniently hold, until brown on both sides, about 8 minutes. Drain on paper towels and keep warm.
Serve hot as a first course. Serve as accompaniment to drinks. Makes about 20 larger fish cakes.