Wednesday, 3 October 2018

Codfish Cakes - Funeral Food from Newfoundland

While doing research about various funeral foods from around the world, I came across this fabulous recipe that's apparently very popular in Newfoundland here in Canada. It would seem that these fish cakes became popular at wakes last century (...wakes that commonly lasted for a good three days, apparently...) because they could sit out at room temperature for quite a while without going bad. It would appear that their oily starchiness did wonders for bracing one's innards against the sheer amount of alcohol being imbibed.

I used to live in Toronto's Little Portugal area, and the corner store at the end of my street sold wonderful potato and codfish cakes, and I always made sure to pick up a few of them every time I passed by. This Newfoundland recipe sounds very similar to the Portuguese one I've tried before, but I like the fact that it has a rich Canadian history. 


  • 1 1/2 pounds salt dried codfish OR jackfruit*, if you'd like to make this vegan
  • 1/4 cup butter OR Earth Balance
  • 1 small onion, chopped or minced finely
  • 6 cups mashed potato OR a mix of mashed cooked sweet potato, turnip, rutabaga, cauliflower, and/or yucca if you'd like to make this AIP friendly
  • 1 egg, beaten well OR a flax egg replacement 
  • 1 tablespoon dried summer savoury
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped Italian parsley
  • Black pepper (optional)
  • Flour of your choice (I like to use a mixture of almond meal and tapioca starch, but use whatever suits your diet)
  • Olive or sunflower oil for frying


The salt cod will be... well, crazy salty... so you need to soak it in cold water in the fridge overnight. This will draw out quite a bit of salt, and will rehydrate the fish so you can use it properly. 

Chop it into a few large pieces and pop those into a large pot of water. Bring it to a boil, then reduce to simmer for about 20 minutes. Drain well and allow the fish to cool to room temperature, then use a pair of forks to flake all the flesh apart.

Melt the butter in a frying pan on medium-high heat, and sautée the chopped onion until it just starts to go translucent. 

In a large bowl, mix together the flaked cod/jackfruit, mashed potato (or AIP vegetables), egg, and summer savoury. If you like black pepper, this is where you'd grind a bit and add it to the mixture to taste. Combine everything well, then form small cakes or football-shaped dumplings. Dredge these in flour, tapping them lightly to shake off any excess, and set aside.**

Heat your oil in a nonstick pan on medium-high, and once hot, fry the cakes until they're golden brown on both sides. Lift them out with a slotted spatula and place them on newspaper to get rid of any excess oil. These are wonderful when served hot, but are just as great at room temperature, or even cold right from the fridge.

In Newfoundland, the tradition is to serve them with scrunchions, which are chunks of fried salt pork. I haven't tried them, nor do I have any inclination to do so, but feel free to go nuts with that if the idea appeals to you. The cakes are great on their own, but as I'm a fan of sauces and dippy things, I like to make a Paleo tartar sauce to accompany them:

Sauce Ingredients:

  • 1 cup pureed avocado OR the mayonnaise of your choice
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 tablespoon apple cider vinegar or lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon finely minced onion
  • 1 teaspoon pickle brine
  • 1/2 teaspoon minced fresh dill
  • 1/2 teaspoon honey or agave or maple syrup
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt (I like pink Himalayan salt, but sea salt works well too)


Blend all ingredients together in a large bowl, and keep refrigerated until ready to serve.

*From what I've been able to research, you should be able to use shredded jackfruit in lieu of the codfish here, but I haven't tried it myself, as it's not something I could find within 100 miles of our little Quebec village. You'd have to season the mixture with salt if using jackfruit, as it's apparently quite mild and doesn't have the preserved cod's extreme saltiness.

**It's a good idea to make a double batch and freeze half. After you've coated them in flour, spread them out on a baking sheet and place that in the freezer for a couple of hours. Once frozen, you can pop the cakes into plastic freezer bags and store them for up to a few months. They rarely last that long, though.


  1. I think Max might like this recipe. But I wonder if it's possible to use fresh cod? It would probably be too moist, huh?

    1. Hmm. You know what? If you used dry mashed potatoes (overcook them so they dry out and go a bit "mealy"), OR pre-cook the fresh cod slightly and then press out any excess liquid, it should work.
      Since you folks can have gluten, you can also bulk it up/dry it out a bit by adding a handful of breadcrumbs or crumbled crackers.