Doctor's Review: Medicine on the Move

December 17, 2017
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Cod cakes with chowchow

These pan-fried cod cakes served with a tart-sweet relish of pickled vegetables called chowchow, come from Eva Murphy, a home cook in Cape Breton Island, off Nova Scotia. The dish makes good use of the firm-fleshed cod caught nearby.


For the chowchow
1½ lbs. (750 g) unripe green tomatoes, cored and minced
1 yellow onion, minced
1 rib celery, minced
½ medium green bell pepper, cored, seeded and minced
½ medium red bell pepper, cored, seeded and minced
2 tbsp. (30 ml) salt
½ c. (125 ml) sugar
⅓ c. (90 ml) distilled white vinegar
1½ tsp. (7.5 ml) dry mustard
1½ tsp. (7.5 ml) yellow mustard seeds
1 tsp. (5 ml) celery seeds
1 tsp. (5 ml) crushed chile flakes
¼ tsp. (1.25 ml) ground coriander


For the cod cakes
6 tbsp. (90 ml) extra-virgin olive oil
2 ribs celery, minced
1 medium onion, minced
1 garlic clove, minced
2 russet potatoes (about 1 lb./500 g), peeled and cut into ¼-inch (6-mm) cubes
salt, to taste
1 lb. (500 g) boneless skinless cod filets
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
½ c. (125 ml) dried bread crumbs
¼ c. (60 ml) mayonnaise
2 tbsp. (30 ml) minced fresh dill
2 tbsp. (30 ml) minced parsley
1 egg yolk, beaten
1 tbsp. (15 ml) fresh lemon juice
4 tbsp. (60 g) unsalted butter

To make the chowchow, toss the tomatoes, onions, celery and peppers in a large bowl with the salt. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for 4 hours or overnight. Transfer the vegetables to a sieve and press to extract the excess juices; discard the juices.

Transfer the vegetables to a 6-quart (6-L) saucepan and add the remaining ingredients. Cover, bring the mixture to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are very soft, about 2½ hours. Transfer the relish to a jar and let cool. Cover and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks.

To make the cod cakes, heat 2 tablespoons (30 ml) oil in a 12-inch (30-cm) skillet over medium heat. Add the celery, onions and garlic, and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 8 minutes. Transfer the celery-onion mixture to a large bowl and set aside.

Put the potatoes into a 4-quart (4-L) pot, cover with salted water by 1 inch (1.25 cm) and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer until the potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes. Drain, transfer half the potatoes to a plate and set aside to cool. Transfer the remaining potatoes to a bowl and mash with a fork. Transfer the mashed potatoes to the celery-onion mixture and set aside to cool.

Season the cod filets with salt and pepper. Heat 2 tablespoon (30 ml) oil in a 12-inch (30-cm) nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the cod and cook, turning once with a spatula, until cooked through, about 8 minutes. Transfer the cod filets to a plate and let cool. Break the filets into 1-inch (1.25-cm) chunks and set aside.

Add the bread crumbs, mayonnaise, herbs, egg yolk and lemon juice to the potato-onion mixture, and stir vigorously to combine. Add the reserved cubed potatoes and the cod, and mix gently to combine. Using your hands, divide the mixture into 8 equal portions and form into cakes approximately 3 inches (7.5 cm) in diameter. Transfer the cakes to a wax paper–lined baking sheet, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes until firm.

Working in 2 batches, heat the remaining oil and butter in the skillet over medium-high heat. Add the cod cakes and cook, flipping once, until golden brown, about 8 minutes. Transfer the cakes to a platter. Serve with the chowchow and lemon halves, if you like. Serves 4.

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