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.

Soul-Warming Curried Pumpkin Soup

curried pumpkin soup

Hello, my darling readers.
I'll skip the apology for the fact that it has once again been almost an entire year since I've updated this blog. By now, we all know that "life happens", and we can't always summon up the time and/or energy needed to tend to projects we love. Sometimes we just need to focus on the tasks at hand and muddle through as best we can.

The maelstrom seems to have passed for the time being (**fingers crossed**), and I actually find myself with a few spare moments to update this wee blog of mine. Autumn is settling in with all her finery, blessing the woods here with every shade of gold and crimson.

It's the turning point of the year, when summer's vibrancy eases into winter's chill. An in-between, liminal space 'twixt life and death, when we can cherish and honour both. It's also the time when our meals turn from light, crisp summer fare to warming, soothing nourishment.

Like soup. (After all, this blog's title features that glorious dish for a reason, right?)
Today's recipe uses the quintessential autumn vegetable: pumpkin.

The Perfect Autumn Meal

My stepfather died a year ago this week, and although he and I never saw eye to eye, he was a decent person in his own right. He was from Glasgow, wept every time he watched Braveheart (which was every few weeks), and loved mashed turnips more than I'll never be able to understand.

I was making a pot of this soup when I got the call that he'd died, so I've associated it with him ever since. He and I had many differences, but I tried to focus on positive memories as I stirred this soup, being present with its preparation.

When we cook with intention, staying in the moment, we appreciate all the subtle nuances our food has to offer us. We can pause in appreciation for all the soil nutrients the vegetables have absorbed over the summer months, revel in their hues, and be truly grateful for small luxuries... like coconut milk and really good curry powder.

Pumpkin Soup

"When times are terrible, soup is the answer. ” 

― Kate DiCamillo
When making this soup, you can either use fresh pumpkin, or canned pumpkin puree. If you go for the latter, try to go organic, if possible. Just make sure that you're using puree, and not pie filling, otherwise you'll end up with a really weird dessert soup.

I use canned puree for this recipe. If you're using fresh pumpkin, I'd recommend preparing it ahead of time by cooking and pureeing it yourself in a blender or food processor beforehand. It just saves time, and you'll be less likely to make a mess with an immersion blender.

  • 6 cups onion, chicken, or vegetable stock
  • 4 cups pumpkin puree
  • 1 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon minced thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 flat tablespoon curry powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup coconut cream or heavy cream (like whipping cream)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Hot red chili pepper flakes (optional)
  • Garnish ideas: roasted pumpkin seeds, sunflower sprouts, parsley, toasted sesame seeds, chopped chives, chili oil (all optional)

Heat the olive oil on medium-high heat in a large soup pot. Once it's warmed, add the onions and cook for 5-7 minutes, stirring regularly. When they've started to go translucent, add the garlic, thyme, and cumin and stir for another couple of minutes. 

Then, add the stock, pumpkin puree, curry powder, and salt. Stir to combine thoroughly. Once it starts to bubble merrily, cover with a lid, reduce the heat to low, and allow to simmer for about 30 minutes. 

If you'd like this soup to be spicy, you can stir in some of those hot red pepper flakes. Otherwise, just omit them entirely. 

After it has simmered for that time, stir in the coconut or whipping cream. You may have to use a whisk to make sure it combines thoroughly.

Taste it, and adjust the liquid level if needed. I like this soup to be really thick and creamy, but if you like it thinner, add a bit more stock. Adjust the salt to your taste, and add a bit of cracked black pepper, if you like.

Ladle the soup into bowls, and serve hot. I like to garnish with a drizzle of chili oil and a few roasted pumpkin seeds, but you can serve it as it is. Other garnish options can be chopped green onions, sunflower sprouts, sesame seeds, parsley... anything you like, really.

I like to eat this with toast triangles, but warmed baguette slices are lovely too, as is freshly baked naan bread.

Make it Your Own

As with all the recipes I share here, I encourage you to experiment with this one and adjust it to suit your individual tastes. I've made this with squash instead of pumpkin, and used leftover curry paste instead of powder, etc.

Keep in mind that if you're going to use curry paste, go for the red or yellow varieties, rather than green. The green paste makes the soup a really "interesting" brown shade that's really quite unappetizing.

I'll be making this soup quite often over the next few months, and will undoubtedly think of my stepdad every time.
The funny thing is, I don't know whether he would have even liked this soup. He preferred bland fare, and balked at anything that might have been considered "exotic".
Who knows—maybe he'll develop an appreciation for spices and coconut milk in his next life.

Beannachd Dia dhuit, Andrew. I hope you're journeying well.