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
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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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.