Accra, cod fish fritter, saltfish or cod cakes or bacalaitos, however it is referred to in your area of the planet, does not induce childhood memories. Heck, I don’t even recall eating it as a child, and prior to developing this recipe, I had never eaten a codfish fritter! I did consult with Mummy to verify that my memory is in fact accurate. She confirmed that she only made oyster fritters when we were young-er…. (and she wondered why I was always chasing the boys!).
How could a person who has never tasted codfish fritter provide you with a recipe? Simple. I know what a fritter shouldn’t taste like. You see, last year while on vacation in Paradise Island(Atlantis) in the Bahamas, we grasped the opportunity to travel to downtown Nassau to experience the culture and cuisine.
Conch fritter was on every menu so we knew we had to try it. We ate some amazing food on our vacation(see below), but the half dozen fritters we were served at one of the popular restaurants in the area known as “Fish Fry” were poor excuses for fritters. They lacked seasoning and island flavor. They basically lacked ingredients. Each contained a minuscule piece of conch measuring less than one eight of a millimeter, with one dice of green sweet pepper enveloped in fried dough and moist with recycled, hydrogenated oil.
Early one Sunday morning in my kitchen, with the disappointing memory of that fritter still haunting me, I created a fritter to please my palate, but I used saltfish which is always more readily available than conch or oyster. I fell in love instantaneously, so did my family.
Confident in my recipe, I made these fritters last August as an appetizer for my niece’s first birthday party. Instead of frying them in a little olive oil as my recipe suggests, I deep fried them which resulted in round delicious balls of goodness.
My auntie Jang wondered why they were so small and my uncle Raffick, her husband, seemed confused because I wasn’t serving them in bread. Apparently, Aunty Jang always made it large enough to eat like a burger in a sandwich. I learn something new every day. I am sure that it'll be marvelous in a sandwich, but I’ll continue to pass on the bread! I enjoy a few with hot sauce, a little mango chutney or kuchela, as an occasional quick Saturday breakfast or appetizer/snack prior to dinner during the week. Strangely enough, my kids who could never get enough and are always fighting for more than their share(and never wants anything other than a sandwich for lunch), asked to take it to school for lunch!!
The salt cod (bacalao) I buy usually does not require repetitive boiling; just a few minutes of rinsing are sufficient. If you think your salt fish requires more than rinsing, feel free to boil it, changing the water several times. I understand that no two brands of salt fish are the same.
It may seem like a lot of ingredients for what should be a simple fritter, but Mummy always preached “needs more seasoning” when I was learning to cook, so “robust flavor” is my main priority when creating a recipe or dish. The ingredients, however, are all familiar and are probably already waiting for you in your refrigerator or pantry. I added the blended green seasoning to create a flavorful backdrop for the other ingredients. The other ingredients are not only healthful, but they also add texture, flavor and create a perfect savory balance which leaves you wanting more!!!
You may add heat to this dish by adding minced habanero or scotch bonnet pepper.
6 oz salt cod (also known as salt fish, bacalao), skinless, boneless
1 cup unbleached all purpose flour
1 teaspoon aluminum free baking powder
½ teaspoon active dry yeast
2 tablespoons finely chopped green sweet pepper
2 tablespoons finely chopped red sweet pepper (about ¼ medium)
1 tablespoon finely chopped pimento pepper (1 large)
1 scallion, finely chopped (about 2 tablespoons)
2 tablespoons green seasoning
1 teaspoon minced garlic
¼ cup chopped onion
1 teaspoon thyme leaves
1 teaspoon brown sugar
Salt, to taste
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
About ½ cup water
Oil, for frying
Using a knife, cut salt fish into small pieces. Soak for several hours. Rinse with several changes of water until only a hint of salt remains. Squeeze out all liquid from the saltfish. (Alternatively, you may rinse salt fish, then boil, changing water several times, drain, transfer to a bowl and flake) .
[Note...Pics were taken the day I quadrupled the recipe]
PREP: Dice peppers, onion, scallion, mince garlic.
In the bowl with the salt fish, add the remaining ingredients (flour, baking powder, yeast, peppers, scallion, green seasoning, garlic, onion, thyme leaves, brown sugar and black pepper).
Using your hands(or spoon), mix together while gradually adding water, until you have a thick batter. Add more salt if the cod fish has no trace of salt after washing or boiling.
(I then allow the batter to rest for 15-30 minutes)
Heat ¼ inch of oil in a skillet over medium heat or enough to cover the bottom of the skillet. Start by doing a taste test for salt. Using a one tablespoon measure, scoop and drop batter into the hot oil, press with a spatula to flatten and fry until golden brown. Flip and cook the other side. Transfer to a paper towel lined platter. When cool, taste the fritter, adding more salt to the batter, if necessary.
Working in batches (now using a ¼ cup measuring cup), scoop batter, drop into oil, flatten with a spatula and fry, flipping once, until both sides are golden brown. Do not overcrowd pan. Transfer to paper towels to drain.
Notes: [Add more oil as necessary in between batches and always make sure that the oil comes back to temperature. Reduce the heat at any point the oil begins to smoke. I lower the heat while I am shaping the fritters and raise it to medium immediately after shaping. Instead of using a 1/4 cup measuring cup, you may also scoop and shape batter with your fingers, then drop gently into oil.)
Serve plain or with mango chutney, kuchela or hot sauce.
Hope you enjoy my recipe,
Cooking with love,