Scoff and a Half: Cod Fish Cakes, Rock-style

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If you know anything about Newfoundland, you know that historically it has been home to one of the largest cod fisheries in the world.  So if you visit the Rock you can pretty much eat cod any which way you like.  Many here prefer to eat it salted (a traditional way to preserve it), and there’s a huge number of dishes surrounding this particular delicacy.  A favourite locally is fish ‘n’ brewis (pronounced like “bruise”), and is very popular amongst the hungover patrons of George Street.  It’s a breaded filet of salt cod, pan fried and topped with scruncheons, which you may remember from our toutons recipe.  It makes for a good “scoff,” or meal.

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You can get salt cod pretty much anywhere on the eastern coast of Canada and through much of New England.  It’s a pretty popular way of preserving fish, so you’re likely to find it as well in markets in Russia, China, huge chunks of Europe, and more or less wherever else cod is sold.  You can also get canned salted cod from specialty shops and online.  If you can’t get salt cod (or you can’t be bothered to get some) you can use fresh cod or haddock or any other white fish as a substitute.  Just don’t go through the soaking step, and add a bit of salt to the recipe.

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First you need about 1lb salt fish bits.  I don’t even question what the bits are, though it’s not all cod.  Just trust me on this one.

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Dump those bits in a pot. Okay so it doesn’t look that appetizing. Just wait for it.

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Fill the pot with cold water.  Bung that pot in the fridge overnight.

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Next day, drain that salty, salty water, and fill it again with fresh. Put the pot on the stove and bring the contents to a gentle simmer for about 10-15 minutes.

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While that’s on the go, peel and chop up about 1lb white potatoes (this was 4 large ones).  Huck them in a pot and boil the crap out of them as well.

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Drain the cooked fish.

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Use two forks (or a potato masher) to break the fish up into fine little bits.

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Drain the cooked potatoes and mash them as well.  Leave them aside to cool a bit.

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Finely chop up a small onion (or half a large one) and drop it in a pan with 1/4 cup butter.

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Cook on medium heat until soft. While I’ve got you moving, might as well do the hokey pokey.

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Crack 1 large egg and beat it up and put it aside, together with 2 tablespoons savoury, and some salt and pepper.

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Dump the onions in with the fish and give that a stir.

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Same-same with the potatoes and herbs.

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When the mixture has cooled enough that it won’t cook the egg on contact, dump that in as well and mix it in.

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Use a spoon to scoop up a generous helping of the mixture and form it with your hands into a little patty.

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Roll the finished patty in about 1/4 cup flour (I used buckwheat so I could give some to Fussellette) and set it aside.

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This particular recipe made 16 fish cakes for me.

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Now you can wrap them up in waxed paper and seal them in something airtight and chuck them in the fridge, or freeze them.

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To cook, heat a couple glugs of vegetable oil in a pan and fry on medium high for 3-4 minutes each side.

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Flip when you get some nice golden-brown crispies on the bottom.

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Serve with fresh chives or parsley and a side of strong condiment, like dijon mustard, relish, or chutney.  Save a couple for the magical creation we will be having on Friday.  Stay tuned!

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Guinness Beef Stew

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Oh yeah.  The fact that my fingers are going numb with cold right now tells me it’s comfort food season.  And what’s more comforting than a nice beef stew?

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The other day at Costco I went a bit nuts and purchased one of their large packages of excellent stewing beef.  “I’ll make boeuf Bourgignon,” I said, forgetting two important things: 1) I am horribly allergic to red wine; and 2) I do not own a Dutch oven.

So scratch that.  Let’s cook with beer instead.  I took a bit of inspiration from the Guinness Storehouse website, and a little from Jamie Oliver, but other than that I just kind of winged it.

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First I started off by roasting some of my vegetables.  That’s 1 head garlic, with the top chopped off, 1 package white mushrooms chopped in half, and 1 package pearl onions, peeled.

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Drizzle those with olive oil and roast at 400°F for about half an hour, and give the onions and mushrooms a good stir about halfway through.

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Then I peeled and roughly chopped 3 parsnips and 4 carrots, and a small bunch of celery.  And some potatoes, which aren’t in this shot.  How many potatoes?  I don’t remember. I didn’t take a picture of them.

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That all goes straight into the pot.

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You can tip in the roasted onions and mushrooms, too.

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Save the garlic on a plate for a little bit.

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Now you can work on your meat, and this is going to take a while.  This is whatever size the package of stewing beef is that comes from Costco, which is extremely large, but the beef is truly excellent and I highly recommend it.  I cut my chunks in half just to make them more manageable with a spoon.  Then  you pat them dry with a paper towel and put them on a plate.  You could use a clean tea towel to dry your meat if you were feeling environmentally conscious, but let’s face it: ew.

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In a bowl, mix together some flour (I used buckwheat just in case a gluten-free person came over for dinner sometime in the future – but then the Pie pointed out that Guinness has gluten in it so I’m an idiot), salt, pepper, and cayenne seasoning.

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Spill some of that onto a plate and spread it out.  Roll your meat chunks in the flour.

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Brown the meat, working in small batches, in that skillet you already used on medium heat.  Add some more olive oil if it starts to dry out and smoke.  Chuck the browned beef into the pot with the vegetables.  This is probably the most tedious step, and takes a while.

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Once you have browned all the meat, pour about 3 1/2 cups beef broth into the vegetable/meat pot.  I found this concentrated stuff at the grocery store. All you have to do is add boiling water. Sure takes up less space in my cupboard!

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Tie a bundle of thyme and rosemary together and chuck that in as well.  I find if you tie the bundle string to the handle of the pot it makes getting it out later a lot easier.  Bring the contents to a simmer.

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In the skillet that you have been using, plop a little butter and more olive oil and let that melt.

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Add in the garlic you roasted earlier and mash it with a wooden spoon.

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Then pour in 2 cans Guinness stout beer and bring that to a simmer.

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Scrape the bottom lots with your wooden spoon.

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Pour that whole lot into your bubbling stew and let that simmer with the lid off, stirring occasionally, to reduce for a while (at least an hour).  You may find you have to add in a bit of corn starch after a while for thickening if you used a gluten-free flour.

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We served ours with some beer bread made out of Mill Street’s Oktoberfest.

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You can simplify all this by doing it all in a slow cooker, but I find I prefer the sharper flavours of the roasted vegetables and the constant stirring — you’d still have to brown the meat before slow-cooking it anyway.  But boy it is time-consuming.

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Worth it, though.

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The Uber Cookie

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When I experiment with recipes, I usually steer away from tampering with the essentials in baking: the exact proportions of flour and baking soda and all of that jazz.  The thing is, when you are working with gluten-free options, all those proportions go out the window anyway.  All you have to think about is general cohesion and texture.

So I invented a cookie recipe from scratch.  I know, it’s not that impressive, but I’m pretty pleased with myself.  Q picked me up from the airport last week and I promised I would bribe him with baked goods, so here they are.  I took input from my husband on what he believes the three main important ingredients in cookies are meant to be: he picked peanut butter, raisins, and oatmeal.

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I can work with that.

Preheat your oven to 375°F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

The best part about this is it turns out that I have some osmotically-absorbed or genetic knowledge about how to bake cookies from scratch, so there was no real trial and error here.  I just kept adding stuff in and it all seemed to work out.  I don’t want to get cocky, though; the next time I do this it’s likely I’ll end up blowing something up.  I think the real trick with stuff like this, when you’re not sure what’s going to happen, is to do it by hand, and avoid the labour-saving devices in  your kitchen.  That way you can see how the ingredients interact with each other while they’re being mixed, rather than shoving it all in the mixmaster, turning it to high, and hoping for the best.

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So with that in mind, I started with a bowl and a spoon.  Because I was going to use peanut butter in this recipe I halved the amount of butter I would normally use.  So in a bowl, cream together 1 cup granulated sugar and 1/2 cup softened butter.

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Then add in 1 cup softened peanut butter.  If you use Jiffy or whatever then it’s probably soft enough as it is, but I used that stuff that you have to stir the oil into and then keep in the fridge, so it needed some time to come to room temperature.  Mix that in well.

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Add to that 2 eggs, one at a time, mixing until each is well combined.  At this point you could add 1 teaspoon vanilla, but I forgot.  Still they turned out great.

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Now for your dry ingredients.  Plop in 1/2 teaspoon baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg, and 1 1/2 cups buckwheat flour (don’t let that name fool you, buckwheat is gluten-free and not related to wheat at all).  Mix that all together well.  Another bonus of doing this with a spoon instead of a mixer is you can make sure the sides are well-scraped down and that there are no ingredients hiding unmixed at the bottom.

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To your cookie dough add 1 cup gluten-free rolled oats and 1 cup raisins.  You could probably add in some chocolate chips as well if the mood strikes you.  Mix until that’s well-combined.

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Form your dough into balls measuring a bit more than a tablespoon and flatten them with your fingers onto the parchment-lined baking sheets.

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Bake for 12 minutes, rotating your pans halfway through, until cookies are set (they will likely not brown much for you).  Leave them to firm up in the pan for about five minutes before removing to a cooling rack to cool completely.  Seal in an airtight container for up to a week.  I bet they would also freeze well.

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