If you’ve ever walked past that open cardboard box of stiff, white, flattened fish at the grocery store and wondered what the heck to do with it, here’s a recipe for salt cod, a.k.a. salt fish, made all along the East Coast and around the world. Salting and drying cod is a centuries-old preservation technique — evidence of the Vikings salting cod in Newfoundland goes back a thousand years. Between the soaking, rinsing, cooking and picking through for bones, you’ll want to set 2 days aside to make this dish. We’ve taken some liberties with this traditional recipe and added whole coriander and yellow mustard seeds for a little crunch and pop of lemony flavour.
Makes 18 to 20 fish cakes
About 15 oz (430 g) salt cod, prepared and finely chopped
3 medium Yukon Gold potatoes, coarsely chopped (about 4 cups)
4 Savoy or napa cabbage leaves, shredded or finely chopped (about 3 cups)
1 cooking onion, finely chopped (about 1 cup)
1 tbsp whole yellow mustard seeds
1 tbsp whole coriander seeds
1/2 tsp black pepper
2 free-run eggs, beaten
3 tbsp flour
About 3 cups Panko or regular unseasoned bread crumbs
About 1 cup canola oil, or more as needed for shallow frying
The day before, add the salt cod to a large bowl of cold water. You might need to cut it up to make sure it’s all under water. Pop into the fridge for about 24 hours, draining and changing the cold water about every 8 hours.
After 24 hours of rinsing, drain the fish. Shred it with your fingers, checking for and discarding any bones; chop and set aside.
In medium saucepan over high heat, boil chopped potatoes until tender (a fork should easily pierce a chunk). Drain well, then either rice or mash the cooked potatoes. This step can also be done the day before.
Add shredded cabbage to microwave-safe bowl; microwave on high until wilted, about 1 minute. Drain off any released water.
In large bowl, mix together chopped salt fish, mashed potatoes, cabbage, onions, mustard seeds, coriander seeds, pepper, eggs and flour until fully combined.
Prepare a production line for dredging the fish cakes; add bread crumbs to a dish, and line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper. With hands, shape the mixture into balls (between the size of a tennis ball and a golf ball); place into dish of bread crumbs and press into a patty about 1 inch thick; flip to coat both sides with crumbs. Transfer to parchment-lined cookie sheets in a single layer.
These are soft cakes that fry better after firming up in the fridge for about 30 minutes or so, but they can successfully be fried immediately too.
When ready to cook, set up a draining station beside the stove; a cookie sheet lined with a kitchen towel, or a wire rack set over a cookie sheet, works well.
In large skillet over medium-low to medium heat, add about 1/2 inch of the oil. Add fish cakes in small batches; do not crowd pan. Fry on both sides until golden, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer to draining station, which you can pop into the oven on the lowest setting to keep warm while cooking the rest.
Most of the ingredients have been pre-cooked or preserved prior to frying; just fry to a golden crispiness outside and a hot interior; no need to overcook.
Serve hot or at room temperature, with Dulse Mayo or Faith’s Green Tomato Chow, or both!
TIP These fish cakes can be fully prepared to the point of frying in advance, then refrigerated for up to 24 hours, or frozen between layers of waxed paper for another time.
Look for dulse — or kelp if you live in the West — near the fish counter of many grocery stores. It tends to be leathery and hard to cut, requiring some crisping up in the oven. And it’s usually pretty salty from the sea, so taste the finished mayo before adding any extra salt.
Makes 1 cup
3 to 4 cups dulse
3/4 cup mayonnaise
2 to 3 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 or 2 dashes of hot sauce
1/4 tsp white or black pepper
Sea salt (optional)
Preheat oven to 375°F.
Arrange dulse in single layer on cookie sheet; bake to crisp up, about 7 to 10 minutes. The colour will darken, but don’t let it burn.
Add cooled dulse to the bowl of a food processor; pulverize to crumbs. Add mayonnaise, lemon juice, hot sauce and pepper, and blend until well combined. It should be salty enough for most as is, but taste and season with more pepper and some sea salt if desired.
Transfer to covered jar and store for up to 1 week in the fridge. Perfect with our Salt Fish Cakes, this mayo also makes a great sandwich spread for fish burgers or to serve with smoked fish.
From Hudson, Quebec, now living in Port Hope, Ontario, Signe is a restaurant chef-turned-writer who tells award-winning stories and creates delicious recipes for LCBO’s Food & Drink, Manna Pro Hearty Homestead, The Harvest Commission, and Today’s Parent; she published her first book – Happy Hens & Fresh Eggs; Keeping Chickens in the Kitchen Garden with 100 Recipes – in 2015.