Down East Fish Cakes

Monday 1 July 2019

You are probably wondering why I am showing you a fish recipe on a Monday.  Two reasons really.  First, as it is Canada Day back home I wanted to cook a typically Canadian dish, and not just Canadian, but a Maritime type of dish.

Secondly  . . . it will take you a few days of preparation to get this dish put together, so I am giving you a heads up!

Down East Fish Cakes.  There isn't a Canadian Maritimer worth their salt that doesn't love or know how to cook these fish cakes.  They have been a Maritime staple for many years.  These delicious potato and fish cakes use a traditional down east kitchen staple, Salt Cod.  

It hails back to the years when the fishing industry was really big in the Maritime Provinces. Humble people are the Maritimers, and in years before refrigeration they would salt their cod to use in the off season.  This was a great way to keep the cod. All they had to do was soak it to regenerate it and it was fit to eat. 

Funny Story:  It is said that during the Dust Bowl in the 1930's many Western Canadians risked starvation so the generous people of Eastern Canada sent  them trains filled with Barrels of Salt Cod, which they knew would not only survive the long journey to the West, but could be easily stored and kept.  Having no idea what it was, the Westerners used the slabs of salt cod to shingle their roofs.  

The Salt Cod I used today does not come from Newfoundland or Nova Scotia, but from Scotland, Shetland to be exact, and it is famous!  Mine came from The Fish Society, which is an online fish monger here in the UK. 

They offer a really vast variety of fish and seafood to choose from, from A to Z, smoked, dried, over 200 kinds.  They deliver across Western Europe but can also deliver further afield if you are looking for good fish to be delivered right to your door.  Frozen fresh it is as fresh as it is right from the ocean when thawed.  I just love their fish. 

I was really excited when I discovered that they had Salt Cod.  A little taste from home, Nova Scotia, which  means New Scotland. This was singing to my Nova Scotian heart. This Salt Air-Dried Cod is considered to be the single Malt of the fish world. This is the best Salt Cod that you can buy here in the UK. Sustainably fished from MSC accredited Shetland stocks, this is a handcrafted premium product! 

You do need to soak it in cold water before you can use it however.  I soaked mine for 48 hours, changing the water 3 times, which is what was recommended to me.  After that I simmered it in hot water for about 15 minutes, and then let it cool, whereupon I flaked it and used it in my recipe.

Some people cook their fish cakes right away, and you certainly could do that, but I like to mix them up one day and then shape them into a roll, wrap and chill, ready for me to cut into slices for frying the next day.

They are really easy to make.  You just mix equal amounts of reconstituted, cooked and flaked salt cod with mashed potatoes.  Don't add any milk or seasoning to the potatoes.  Just peel, mash and use.

Into this goes a beaten egg, and some seasoning . . . 

As a Maritimer I highly recommend Summer Savoury. Back home this is a staple of every kitchen larder.  You will find it added to lots of dishes.  Summer Savoury is the cousin of Winter Savoury, and adds incredible flavour to lots of dishes. 

Summer Savoury is very aromatic and has an appetizing-enhancing, expectorant, digestive-regulating and sudorific effect.

Taken internally, the herb is viewed as a good remedy for nausea, diarrhea, flatulence, bloating and other digestive disorders, and can also used to treat a sore throat, colic, asthma and irregular menstruation. Just sayin'


Its not a herb that I have ever seen in the UK, and even in Western Canada it can be difficult to find. I always bring bags of it back with me when I come back from visiting Canada and throw them in the freezer to keep them fresh. 

If you can't get it you can substitute a mixture of thyme and sage in its place.  My Maritime heart just loves it. 

Down East Fish Cakes

Remembering that you are using salt cod, which has been cured by salting it, you will want to be judicious with adding salt.  I taste as I go along. 

You probably won't need much.  I also like to add a healthy pinch of ground black pepper.

Shape the mixture into a fat log, wrap in cling film and place into the refrigerator overnight to chill, ready to slice, dip in flour and fry the next day for supper!

If you can't abide the idea of using salt cod (it does kind of smell) then you can use fresh cod which you have simmered until done, cooled and flaked in its place. 

You will need more salt for seasoning in that case.  I highly recommend the Fish Society's Prime Cod Mishapes which are perfect for this use.

The preparation of these takes a long longer than it does to cook them. They cook in literally minutes.  Back home we would serve them with scrunchions.  

Scrunchions are pieces of  salt pork which have been fried and rendered to crisp little bits.  We don't get salt pork over here.  (I know so much salt!  Those ancestors of mine were hardy folk!)

In true Maritime tradition, I served these with some baked beans, sliced ripe tomatoes and some of my fabulous Creamy Coleslaw.

This simple supper never fails to delight!

Yield: 4
Author: Marie Rayner

Down East Fish Cakes

A maritime recipe hailing from the provinces of Eastern Canada. I like to serve them with baked beans, coleslaw and sliced tomatoes.


  • 250g salt cod (1/2 pound, 8 ounces)
  • 250g mashed potato (1/2 pound, 8 ounces)
  • 1 small onion, peeled and grated on the fine edge of a hand grater
  • 1 1/2 tsp summer savoury
  • salt and black pepper to taste
  • 2 medium free range egg yolks, beaten
  • flour for dusting
  • sunflower oil for frying


How to cook Down East Fish Cakes

  1. Soak your cod in cold to reconstitute it according to the package directions, draining and changing the water several times. It will pong, but don't worry, it tastes beautiful. 
  2. Once your fish is ready to cook simmer it in boiling water to cover for about 20 minutes.  Drain it at the end of that time and set it aside to cool. (You can be cooking and mashing the potatoes while you wait.)
  3. Flake the cod into a bowl with a fork, or your fingers. (I use my fingers as I find it easier.) Add the mashed potatoes, and the seasonings, herbs. Taste and adjust as needed.  Beat the egg yolks and then stir them in to combine well.  Shake into a fat log, wrap in cling flim and chill over night.
  4. The next day when you are ready to cook them, have a shallow bowl of plain flour ready.  
  5. Heat some oil, about 1/4 inch in a non-stick skillet until hot.  Slice the fish mixture into 1 inch thick patties and coat them in flour, shaking off any excess.  Place them in the hot fat, and cook until golden brown on both sides.  Serve hot.
Created using The Recipes Generator

Fish from the Fish Society comes straight to your door, with an overnight delivery, and beautifully packaged.  Ready to throw right into your own freezer.  I highly recommend! 

Happy Canada Day to all my friends and family! 


  1. My mom made fish cakes..never this involved though:)

    1. I bet your mom's were really good Monique! My mom never made fish cakes. Learnt how to make them from my MIL! xoxo

  2. They look so good and really funny using them for shingles! Salt cod is not seen here much at all but I do know they started selling it in one grocery store, I wasn’t sure what it was either lol, my mum simmered a salted slab of fish in milk but it was smoked I think, I remember it being yellow, it’s a steamy day here in northern Ontario marie, I think it is where you are as well!

    1. Smoked fish is lovely simmered in milk. YOu could use regular cod for these, but you would need to taste and add salt as required. They would still be delicious! xoxo

  3. Trying again to get through - like your idea of putting a 'fish cake' roll in the fridge for awhile - I'm always trying to make patties after mixing which is messy. I'm going to try that next time. I hated fish cakes as a child - Catholic, every Friday we either had fish cakes OR salt cod with white sauce - no variations - today I love them and also the other, but of course don't have them every Friday anymore. In the last few years Sobeys has 'salted fish' beside the 'salted cod fish' and once I bought the wrong thing - they were awful. It must be salt cod. High mucky-mucks and restaurants have started using salmon for fish cakes or some have a bread batter on them. What are they thinking!

    1. Oh, I don't like any other kind of fish cake Linda! Just the salt cod ones, or a cod fish cake that I make that has no fillers in it. Just fish, herbs and onion, made from raw fish. Refrigerating the roll makes a huge difference in prepping them for cooking. A lot easier to handle! I'm with you what is it with bread batter? UGH! xoxo

  4. We have them with eggs - never had them with beans - I don't think that would fly with my crowd.

    1. And I have never had them with eggs, but it sounds good! xoxo


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