Cape Breton Fish Cakes

Cape Breton Fish Cakes

The first of many recipes of my ancestry! I have a few drafts on the go of other family recipes that I can’t wait to share. Please excuse the terrible main photo but I wasn’t planning on posting this recipe. My aunt Moira, currently living it up in Australia, requested the recipe so I figured posting it here would make it sharable and easy for me to retrieve in the future.

This recipe is one of my favourites to enjoy at my grandparents’ house. My Nana is from Chéticamp on Cape Breton Island and this is a traditional recipe of the Acadian people of the East coast of Canada. There are many variations – some are only fried in flour, many call for the addition of the herb savoury – but this is how we always had them when I was growing up.

This recipe is EASILY halved, which I recommend for 2-3 people. As written, this recipe serves 4-5 people.

***Cod must be soaked overnight before beginning this recipe!!**

-1.5 lbs of boned salt cod (I used two 340g bags of the cheaper salt cod pieces – no need for whole filets)
-6 cups of mashed potato (about 5-6 medium potatoes peeled and boiled til falling apart)
-2 eggs, beaten
-1 Spanish onion, finely diced
-1/4 cup butter
-1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
-Freshly ground pepper
-Minced flat leaf parsley (optional – not in my family’s traditional recipe but this would be a great addition)
-50/50 mixture of coarse breadcrumbs and flour, for dredging (about 1.5 cups)
-Neutral oil for frying
-Finely sliced green onion, for serving
-Lemon wedge, for serving

  1. Soak the salt cod in cold water the night before you will make the fish cakes. Change the water a few times over the course of the evening and following day.
  2. Boil the cod and potatoes. In a large pot, add the potatoes and water. Don’t salt the water – the salt cod is going to bring all the salt this recipe needs, even for salt lovers! Boil until potatoes are beginning to fall apart, about 20 minutes. At the same time, bring a pot of water to boil and add the cod. Boil for 15-20 minutes, until easily flaked with a fork. Drain the potatoes and cod and allow to cool a bit.
  3. Meanwhile, add the butter, olive oil, and onions to a pan and sauté until soft.
  4. When the cod is still warm but cool enough to handle, crumble it in to little pieces using your hands. Mash the potatoes.
  5. In a large bowl, mix the cod, potatoes, beaten egg, butter and onions, and pepper. If you would like to add parsley, add it now. If you won’t be frying the cakes right away, it’s still a good idea to make this mixture while the ingredients are warm, to allow the flavours to really mix and meld.
  6. Shape the mixture in to cakes, about the size of small, thick hamburger patties. Meanwhile, add enough oil to coat the bottom of a large cast iron skillet or heavy-bottomed pan.
  7. In a shallow bowl, add the breadcrumb mixture. Press each side of the cake in to the mixture and then roll the sides so the whole cake is covered.
  8. Add the cakes to the hot skillet and fry until deep brown and crispy on both sides.
  9. Serve with sliced green onion, lemon wedges, and fresh pepper

Another not-so-traditional addition: I made a lemon horseradish cream sauce by mixing dried chives, 1 tbsp of horseradish, a splash of lemon juice, and 3/4 cup of sour cream. I used to a spoon to drizzle a little of this on the cakes for serving.

These cakes are wonderful served with arugula salad for some nice balance.

I highly recommend serving leftovers with a poached egg. Add some hollandaise for true decadence!

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