I found a new tradition this Easter – fish cakes and hot cross buns. I thought it was an odd pairing, but this is a favorite in Bermuda, where my Easter dinner guest was from. In Bermuda, fish cakes arrived with Europeans who used the island as a way station for trading slaves and supplies with America. Salting is an effective way of preserving fish for a long journey and so saltfish became a cheap staple for slaves and generations to follow. My great grandfather emigrated from Cabo Verde, a Portuguese way station closer to Africa, and similarly would have eaten saltfish, or bacalhau, as a fisherman and later chef in New England.
Fish cakes are an everyday food, but hot cross buns are an Easter tradition with a religious origin. Since dairy is forbidden during Lent, this bun with a creamed cross on top marks a sweet treat that ends the season of restriction for some. Here in England I noticed them featured at the front of grocery stores for a few weeks leading to the holiday. I found the sweet buns laced with cinnamon and raisins paired oddly with the savory cakes, but as a once-a-year taste that unlocks the memories of past holidays it brings a smile.
I’ve taken a healthier and more expensive approach with this recipe by cooking fresh cod from scratch. However, you can still make great fish cakes if you switch up the fish and potatoes. Really, any cooked white fish will do. Make it from leftover cooked cod or haddock to reduce waste. Or, start from cheaper frozen fish to save a little money. If you’re not worried about the sodium, you can make it the traditional way and use saltfish, soaking it overnight with a few changes of water to remove salt and then boiling rather than baking. For the potatoes, try starting with leftover mashed or roasted potatoes. Any inputs you choose, adjust the flavor as you season the mixture.
Enjoy these fish cakes at any time of day. For breakfast or brunch, serve with a fried or poached egg as pictured here. Put the cake in between bread for a tasty lunch sandwich or serve along a side salad with dinner for a full meal. These also keep really well in the freezer. Try making a double batch, spread in a single layer to freeze then store in a freezer bag. You can then bake off a few at a time for a delicious meal that’s ready in no time. Give these a try and let me know how you like them!
- Fish Cakes
- 1 pound fresh cod or haddock fillet, skin removed
- 3 tablespoons butter, divided
- ¾ pound potatoes, peeled and cubed.
- ¼ cup green onion, thinly sliced
- ¼ cup parsley, chopped
- 2 teaspoons fresh thyme, finely chopped
- ½ teaspoon curry powder
- 2 teaspoons spicy brown mustard
- 1 egg
- ½ cup flour
- 3 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil
- Spicy Mayo
- ½ cup Mayonnaise
- 2 Tablespoons Hot sauce
- 2 teaspoon Mustard
- 1 Tablespoon Parsley, finely chopped
- Preheat oven to 400°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Rinse cod and pat dry. Line up fish on pan, season both sides with salt and pepper, and divide 1 tablespoon of butter evenly across pieces. Bake for 10 minutes. Flip cod and bake for another 8-10 minutes, until firm and flaky. Remove from oven and cool.
- Add potatoes to a large pot with salt and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Boil until tender and falling apart. Drain and rest until cool enough to handle.
- Add cooled potatoes to a large mixing bowl and mash evenly. Crumble in cod fish in small chunks. Add green onion, parsley, thyme and mustard, along with remaining butter, melted. Add egg and stir to mix evenly, but without breaking the fish too small. Season to taste with salt and pepper. When ready, mixture should be sticky and hold together well.
- Spread flour on a plate. Gather a large handful of the mixture and pack into a ball. Flatten to a disk and dust both sides with flour.
- Heat oil in a nonstick pan over medium-high heat. Fry cakes until golden brown, about 5 minutes per side. Remove from oil and drain on a paper towel. Fish cakes taste great hot or at room temperature and can be made ahead and frozen. Reheat in the oven.
- To make spicy mayo: mix together mayonnaise, hot sauce, mustard and parsley in a small bowl.