Roman Cod Cakes

“The wedding guests gorged on cod cakes and winter squash, hills of neeps and great round wheels of cheese, on smoking slabs of mutton and beef ribs charred almost black…” -A Dance with Dragons

Modern Cod Cakes

Our Thoughts:

The Roman cod cakes are quirkier than what we’re used to when we think of fish cakes, but they’re also quite good. The cod is a nice, mild white fish, which lets the other flavors and textures have a turn in the spotlight. The cilantro is not overpowering, and the wine imparts a subtle sweet flavor. The leeks give an overall crunchiness, while the occasional caper provides a pop of vinegar. We weren’t great fans of the sauce, however; It’s a little too peculiar a pairing for our taste!

The modern cakes were excellent. Just a little crispy on the outside, but with a moist cod-potato filling on the inside. A little salt and a dash of lemon complete the meal, and they’re equally good right out of the frying pan as they are straight from the fridge.

Winner? I’m really not sure. The modern cakes win for general likeability, but the Roman cakes are unique and special. My personal ideal might be a combination of the two, with turnips swapped in for the spuds, and the sauteed leeks added in.

Historical Cod Cakes Recipe

Minutal marinum: pisces in caccabum, adicies liquamen, oleum, uinum, cocturam. porros capitatos, coriandrum minutatim concides, isiciola de pisce minuta facies et pulpas piscis cocti concerpis, urticas marinas bene lotas mittes. haec omnia cum cocta fuerint, teres piper, ligusticum, origanum, fricabis. liquamen suffundes, ius de suo sibi, exinanies in caccabum. cum ferbuerit, tractam confringes. obligas. cum ferbuerit, agitas. piper aspargis et inferes. [Place the fish in a saucepan, add broth, oil, and wine. Also finely chop leek heads and coriander. Form it into small cakes, adding capers and well-cleaned sea nettles. These fish cakes cook in a liquor of pepper, lovage, and crushed oregano, diluted with broth and the above fish liquor. Skim well, bind, stir over the cakes, sprinkle with pepper and serve.] – Apicius, 4th Century

Cook’s Notes: Sea Nettle is a jellyfish. Although there were a few washed up on the beach when I went to photograph the dish, I left out it out for simplicity’s sake. I also opted for the more traditional route of frying the cakes, as they fell apart completely when I tried to cook them strictly according to the recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 lb. cod, cut into large chunks.
  • 1/2 cup broth
  • 1 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1/2 cup wine (I used a semi-sweet red)
  • 1 leek, diced
  • 1-2 Tbs. fresh cilantro, diced
  • 2 Tbs. capers
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 – 1 cup breadcrumbs
  • olive oil for frying

For sauce:

  • pinch of pepper
  • 1 tsp. lovage root
  • 1 tsp. oregano
  • remaining broth, from above
  • roux (1 Tbs. oil, 1 Tbs. flour)

Poach the cod in the broth until it is flaky, around 5 minutes.  Fish out the cod, place in a bowl, and crumble. Add the leek, cilantro, and capers, then the eggs and 1/2 cup breadcrumbs. Mix this thoroughly by hand, and try to make a few patties with them. Add more breadcrumbs as needed.

Once you have a consistency that will work, form the mixture into cakes and fry in oil over medium heat. The cakes should be golden brown, and just a tad crispy. Place on a plate covered with paper towel to drain.

To the poaching broth, add lovage, oregano, and pepper. Simmer until this sauce has reduced slightly, about 5 minutes. Strain, then thicken with a roux.

Serve cod cakes while still warm, with sauce on the side, or drizzled over.

Modern Cod Cakes Recipe

Cook’s note: This recipe is “modern” because of the inclusion of potatoes, a decidedly non-Westerosi ingredient.

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb of cod fillets
  • 2 medium-sized russett potatoes
  • 1 cup bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 Tbsp freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • Grapeseed oil, or other high smoke point oil such as canola oil, for frying

Boil and mash the potatoes, set them aside. Boil the codfish until it flakes easily. Drain and flake the fish with a fork. Be sure to remove all bones. Mix the flaked fish, the potatoes and the rest of the ingredients together well by hand. If the mixture is too crumbly, add another egg. If too sticky, add some more bread crumbs. Form the mixture into cakes and fry them on medium high heat in a skillet coated with oil, until nice browned on one side, then flip them over and continue to cook until well browned on the other side. Yield: Makes 12 fish cakes. Serves 4-6.

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16 Responses to Cod Cakes

  1. Chris Newswanger says:

    These look delightful, and much better than the rest of the food Manderley brought to the feast. I can’t wait to try them.

    • Faris says:

      Which one? The fish cakes or the rest of Manderley’s food? ;)

    • Chris Newswanger says:

      I just finished up a batch of these right now. I deep fried them and they are fantastic! The exterior got a very nice crispy coat and the middles were soft and so very tasty. Even my wife who doesn’t care for fish enjoyed one. Great recipe, and definitely one to make again.

  2. MsCarrie says:

    Hmmmm, maybe the Roman Cakes were more like dumplings?
    The Modern Cakes sound great, I’ll be making those for sure. Thanks for the neat recipe, keep up the good work!

  3. jmcintosh says:

    I wonder if Tilapia would be any good as a replacement for the cod? oh well I am going to try it anyway, I’ll let you know how it turns out!

  4. Tami in Ruidoso says:

    What type of broth did you use for the Roman Cod Cakes?…vegetable broth, clam broth, fish stock… or plain water that became a cod broth after the fish poached in it…I’ll be trying both versions, I love cod, salmon, crab & shrimp cakes and anything with cilantro &/or capers is a winner in my house.

    • Needs Mead says:

      I used chicken broth, but I bet any of those others would also work! Let us know what you end up going with. :)

  5. MarinaOL says:

    I can´t wait to try this recipe! I usually only make the medieval recipes and this looks sooooo great and delicious! Cilantro…hm…yummy!!

  6. Lauren says:

    We made the modern recipe tonight and it was absolutely delicious. I did the turnip/leek substitution because leeks are my favorite. Next time I might try using crumbs from bread that’s a little more substantial than sandwich bread. Maybe the black beer bread?

  7. sadie says:

    Would the addition of the jellyfish in the Roman recipe have added another binding agent, and helped them stay together during the original cooking method? I have no idea what jellyfish does when added to food, but that was my first (entirely uninformed) thought. The continuation of that thought was, could you add the same carrageen you used in the pudding as a replacement? Would that help it hold up to the cooking method?

    Anyway, just my musings… I’ll be giving these a try, though I’m surrounded by non-fish-lovers, so I’ll have to wait for some alone-time in the kitchen…

    • Needs Mead says:

      That’s an interesting thought! I wonder if you might be onto something with the jellyfish as a binder.

      Not sure about the carrageen, as it usually gets pressed through a sieve for the gelatinous goop, but perhaps if the seaweed were used to gel the wine? It could work… Probably merits another go, at any rate! ;)

      • Stompydog says:

        First, let me say that I really enjoy your website. I just discovered it and can’t wait to get your cookbook. I have been a chef for over 20 years.
        When I saw the context of the jellyfish in the original recipe, I also thought that it would’ve been there primarily as binding agent. Although I have never eaten jellyfish, I don’t imagine it would have much flavor. I believe more egg (or just egg white), or maybe corn starch or arrowroot would make an adequate substitution.
        Also, in reading the original Latin, the word cocturam refers to the reduced stock, while the word liquamen refers to a fish sauce used in Roman times called garum. This was used in most Roman recipes; even used a tonic to cure everything from dog bites to constipation. It was the ubiquitous Roman condiment. The closest modern day equivalant of this would be Asian fish sauce, such as Nuoc Mam, only not quite as salty. The addition of this essential ingredient would definitely alter the taste of the dish and the accompaning sauce. I would suggest adding a couple tablespoons of fish sauce to the initial poaching liquid. When mixing the fish with the other ingredients to form the cakes, an additional 2 eggs or a couple tablespoons of corn starch or arrowroot could substitute for the jellyfish as a binding agent. The original recipe seems to indicate the cakes are then poached in the poaching liquid for the cod, with additional fish sauce added. After poaching, thicken the remaining liquid with roux. With the addition of the fish sauce to the recipe, I would omit any salt. This would result in a much more dumpling like cake than the fry method. I am anxious to try it both ways and see which one I like better.

  8. Sof says:

    Here in Portugal, where the dried and salted cod is pretty much our favourite ingredient, we have a similar dish, though much simpler – I’m guessing it got destilled from the roman recipe!
    Instead of fresh cod, we use, of course, dried and salted cod. We make a pasty mix of water and flour, with diced onion and parsley, mix in the shredded cod and fry it in similar cakes in hot vegetable oil. It’s very popular as a cold snack, or eaten hot as a meal accompanied by tomato-and-kidney bean rice.

  9. ET_PbD says:

    I made us a Winterfell dinner tonight – your (Modern) Cod Cake recipe, but using halibut and some smoked kippers, with fresh herbs; my “neeps” were frenched green beans baked in a chicken veloute; salad garnished with pine nuts toasted in walnut oil, cumin, coriander, cloves and celery salt; herbed toast points; and all finished off with a lemon cake courtesy of an old Pillsbury recipe: shortbread-like bottom crust, topped with a lemon baked custardy layer. I’m planning to riff on your recipes all week and do a tour of Westeros for dinner for the next four days. And, I can’t wait to pile up the recycling moneys to obtain your cookbook! Loving it all. Thanks!

  10. redheadedgirl says:

    I know this is an old old OLD post, but what translation of Apicius are you using? Based on the “broth” translation of “liquamen”, I’m guessing Vehling? He’s, the put it bluntly, a classicist who isn’t a cook, so he had no idea how food works. Liquamen is a fish sauce (Sally Grainger suggests cutting Thai fish sauce, which has a much higher salt content than the Roman versions, with reduce grape syrup), and you wouldn’t be putting so much in. That’s probably why they didn’t hold the shape- too much liquid.

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