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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Sweet Potato Fries

Sweet Potato Fries

In trying to adapt to a new routine (in our case, to the start of a new school semester), it’s easy to get lazy about your cooking.  Fortunately (because I’m me), when I cook I do it in large batches and I freeze what I don’t use.  So on nights when we’re feeling lazy we can simply unfreeze some pre-prepared goodness rather than buying something quick at the store.

In this particular situation we hauled out some beef burgers I’d frozen the week before.  But what to go on the side?  How about some sweet potato fries?  That sounds like a good plan.  Baked instead of fried, of course, but you get the idea.

Preheat your oven to 425°F.

Peel yourself some sweet potatoes (we used 4, but it depends on the size of the potato and the amount of fries you want).  These are also known as yams in some parts of the United States, but it gets a little confusing

Sweet Potato Fries

Chop the potatoes up into thin sticks (y’know, French fry-shaped pieces), and pop them in boiling water for 5-6 minutes to par-boil.  If you like your fries a little crispier, I wouldn’t bother to par-boil them.

Sweet Potato Fries

Drain them and toss them in a greased roasting pan or baking sheet.  Sprinkle evenly with salt and pepper and a little bit of cajun seasoning.

Sweet Potato Fries

Bake for 20-25 minutes, flipping with a spatula halfway through.  The “fries” should be crispy on the outside and tender on the inside.  Enjoy!

Sweet Potato Fries

How We Remember

World Trade Center New York City in a Storm Cl...
Image via Wikipedia

Memory is a funny thing.  This article came up in the paper on Wednesday and made me think about it a little bit.  I apologize for this not being a DIY post, but I’m sure you’ll indulge me just this once.

I’m remembering what it was like ten years ago today.

It was a sunny Thursday morning and I headed off to Carleton to attend my very first Geoscience lab.  Of course, as I know now, most universities don’t hold labs in the first week of classes.  Undaunted, I headed home, and was lucky enough to catch a bus that got me there by 8:30.  I dropped my mother off at her doctor’s appointment and went about my day, which was now free and stretched far in front of me.

My mother called me to pick her up.  “Be careful driving,” she said.  “There’s been a plane crash and people are listening to the news while they drive.”  I tuned into the radio on my way to get her and heard the news.  Not only had a plane crashed, but it had crashed into the World Trade Centre in New York City’s financial district.  Every car we passed contained drivers and passengers with identical faces of horror to that which I’m sure my mother and I had on.

The first thing I did when we got home was scramble to the basement to turn on the news.  I saw the twin towers, silhouetted against the sunny sky, smoke billowing out of one of them.  As I and millions of other people watched, a second plane crashed into the second tower.

That sunny morning in September 2001, I huddled in the basement, glued to the television.  I saw people fall, and some people jump, from their office windows.  I watched first one tower topple into dust and ashes, and then the second.  I remember thinking how amazing it was that something made of steel and cement could disintegrate so completely.   With tears in my eyes I watched people running in terror from the massive cloud of dust and ash.  The bright, sunny day became very suddenly a choking night for those nearby.

In those days I worked at what is now the UPS store, and when I pried myself away from the television that afternoon  to go to work, I was still trying to wrap my head around what had happened.  After the towers fell, it came out that another plane had crashed into the Pentagon, and another into a field in Pennsylvania.  My boss greeted me at the door.  “There are no planes in the sky,” he said.  “No air shipments today.  Nothing’s getting out.”

My customers that night, the ones who had been paying attention to the news, were in shock.  We speculated on the reasons for such violence.  The customers who hadn’t been paying attention to the news were a bit different.  I had to explain to them the reason that I couldn’t ship their packages was because nothing was flying.  I remember being astounded that some of these people had gone the entirety of the day without hearing a word about this tragedy.   One customer became angry with me when I told him that I couldn’t FedEx his package to the US overnight.  He didn’t think that the events that had occurred warranted all this fuss.  He seemed to hold me personally responsible for the lateness of his shipment (which, by the way, was a set of documents that, in a pinch, he could have simply faxed to where it needed to be).  This was one of the few times I lost my temper at a customer while working at the store, and I told him that the last thing anybody cared about now was whether his package made it to wherever it was on time.  I told him he was welcome to try to ship his package from a different location but that his attitude was not welcome in my store and I asked him to leave.  I was still shaking with anger several hours later.

I remember walking around in the days that followed, marveling at the empty skies (and I lived relatively near an airport).  The first time I saw a plane in the sky after that, I almost ducked.   When I flew to Rhode Island to visit Doodle in March of the next year, the travel agent told me that I was booked on the exact airline and flight number that had crashed into the first tower.  That was an eerie trip.  Doodle and I were sitting in a bar, having lunch, the afternoon that George W. Bush declared war on Afghanistan.  It feels like people haven’t stopped fighting since.

The Pie and I often speculate how we are going to explain to our children that the world is the way it is because of that day, ten years ago.  The wars that followed, the widespread fear of the Other and the blame that continues to this day, the rigid security at our airports and borders, all of that has changed the way we live and how we relate to others.  The weird thing is that I’m starting to get used to it.  I don’t see any huge problem with waiting in line for an hour at airport security to have all my possessions minutely examined.  But do you remember what it was like before?  When the guy you saw on the corner every day was just a guy, and not a possible terrorist in a sleeper cell?  When watching an old movie with a city scape of the towers in it didn’t give you goosebumps?

I can barely remember what it was like before, all the things we took for granted.  But I remember that day, as I’m sure you do.  How can we ever forget?  How do you remember it?  I would like to hear your stories of how the news affected you, being as you are, from all around the world.  Hard to believe it’s been ten whole years.

Gren Learns to Swim

Gren Learns to Swim

We didn’t have much of a summer in Newfoundland, so when the Pie and I were visiting family in Ottawa we took advantage of the proximity to our cousin’s cottage and decided to teach Grenadier how to swim.

Gren Learns to Swim

Now, some dogs, like labs, goldens, duck tollers, and PWDs, are born swimmers.  Other dogs, especially those whose front ends are significantly heavier than their back ends, like pugs, bulldogs, daschunds, and yes, corgis, are not.

Gren Learns to Swim

Even so, it was something we wanted to get Gren used to doing, just so he would have some options on a hot summer day.  Aside from some wading about and a briefly traumatic fall into a turtle pond, Gren was a land-lubber.

Gren Learns to Swim

For safety’s sake, and because corgis are not natural swimmers, we got Gren a dog’s life jacket.  Make sure when you are looking for a life jacket that the seams are tightly sewn and the workmanship looks good.  Ensure that the fit is correct for your dog’s weight, as well as his length.

Gren Learns to Swim

You should be able to comfortably lift the dog up by the handle of the jacket when the jacket is properly secured. This handle is especially useful when your dog falls off your boat and you can just haul him back on.

Gren Learns to Swim

This Outward Hound version is widely available and nicely affordable at around thirty bucks retail.  I like the additional flotation under the chin, which helps keep the dog’s head above the water — this is a plus (and a must) with brachiocephalic dogs like pugs and bulldogs, who don’t have the long snouts of other dogs.  And remember that even with a life jacket, you should never leave your dogs unsupervised in the water!

Gren Learns to Swim

Gren likes to paddle in the water, but he’ll never be a big swimmer.  Whenever we had him out over his head his first move was to head for shore.

Gren Learns to Swim

He did swim out to “rescue” the Pie at one point, because he was too far away, but that was the only time he left the shore of his own will.

Gren Learns to Swim

He was really not a big fan.

Gren Learns to Swim

Fika with Swedish Chocolate Balls

My lovely pseudo-family came to visit my parents and I all the way from Sweden.  I got to see my nephew after four years’ absence, and meet my goddaughter in person for the first time.

We were also introduced to the fantastic Swedish tradition of fika.  Roughly translated, fika means “to drink coffee”.  In Sweden it is used as both a noun and a verb and it’s an invitation to have a coffee break and enjoy some baked nibblies.  “Shall we fika?” is a common phrase in offices across Sweden in mid-morning and mid-afternoon.

And what better treat to fika with than traditional Swedish chocolate balls (“Chokladboll“).  Chocolate balls do not really contain any chocolate, only cocoa, and are also known by another, rather racist name, so we’ll stick with the chocolate one, shall we? 

Now, I multiplied the recipe and had to translate it from the metric — because in Canada, though we wholeheartedly espoused the metric system decades ago, we still cook in American.  So bear with me.

Cream together 1 3/4 cups softened butter and 1 cup and 3 tablespoons granulated sugar.

Add in 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa, 4 teaspoons icing sugar (confectioner’s sugar), and 3/4 cup cold coffee.  Mix well.

Stir in 8 cups oats.

Roll the mixture into small balls, about the size of your average Timbit (the traditional Canadian version of the fika treat).

Roll the balls in dessicated coconut (a cup should do) and toss them in the fridge to harden a bit.

My pseudo-family sometimes piles the balls into towers and uses them as cakes for those with gluten allergies.

Waterproof Picnic Blanket

Here’s a great gift idea for avid picnic-ers that you know.  This was a Christmas gift for Doodle and her man.

I found a brand-new Scouts Canada campfire blanket at Value Village in the fall, and I immediately thought of Doodle, who, although she has lived in the United States for several years now, is a staunch Canadian, and, like my brother Ando, who is also an ex-pat Canuck, likes to surround herself with various items of Canadiana.

Normally the little Scouts cut holes in the centres of the blankets to wear them like ponchos, and often sew badges and other things onto the blanket itself. Then they sit around the campfire and tell dirty stories.

I’m not sure exactly what the blanket is made of, but I hope it’s flame-retardant.

Anyway, I purchased a measure of bright red vinyl to match the red thread on the blanket itself, and cut it to fit.  Because the blanket wasn’t an exact rectangle, I made a little mark on the vinyl to indicate where the Scouts Canada logo should go.

I used pinking shears to finish the edges of the vinyl.  Then I cut buttonholes at all the corners and along the sides.  I reinforced the buttonholes with red thread in a blanket stitch.

I then sewed on all the buttons, making sure that none of them matched each other.  I saved the big silver button to go under the Scouts Canada patch.

And there you have it, a simple picnic blanket.  Just unbutton it to wash it and you’re set!


Cranberry Sauce


For those of you from elsewhere, Canadian Thanksgiving has nothing to do with pilgrims taking advantage of the hospitality of the local folk.  It’s a celebration of the end of the harvest (which, as Canada is further north than the United States, is a mite earlier in the year), and the harvest has been good this year, so let us FEAST.

I’ve been making this simple cranberry sauce (because, really, how can a cranberry sauce be complicated?) since I was tall enough to see the top of the stove.

We’ve got ten people coming to our feast tomorrow and they all like cranberry sauce so I’m going to make quite a bit of it.  If you’re familiar with my general-purpose fruit sauce, the process is very similar.  Or identical.

Take two packages (340g/12oz) fresh cranberries.

Wash them and bung them in a pot.  Add about 3/4 cup of granulated sugar as well as 1/2 cup cranberry juice or water.  You can add more sugar later if it’s not sweet enough for you.

Bring it to a boil, stirring often.

The berries will start to pop and foam.  You can help them along by gently squishing the popped berries against the side of the pot with the back of your spoon.

Then all of a sudden you’ll have a sauce.  You can add a bit of corn starch dissolved in liquid if you like a thick, jelly-like sauce, but we like ours runny so I didn’t bother.

Remove from the heat and allow to cool.  Plop it in a pretty dish (though if it’s going to be there a while, avoid ones that are white in case they stain) and serve it with turkey and all your Thanksgiving goodness.  You can keep it covered in your fridge for ages, so it’s a good thing to make ahead, and make plenty of it for leftovers in the days to come.

Have a great holiday!