Holy week in the Virgin Islands is a a sacred time of reflection and sacrifice, with a culminating celebration of the Easter feast. Specifically, Good Friday is a day when there is no meat, or chicken consumed out of religious deference. No distilled alcohol is sold publicly on that day by law on the island. The only protein that most families eat on Good Friday is fish.
One of my favorite “Good Friday Foods” is Salt Fish Cakes. Growing up, this was a go-to breakfast food in our home during Holy Week. It is a crispy and usually incredibly spicy-hot meal. Have something cold and sweet to accompany it!
This recipe is merely a guide. It is a temperamental batter that requires some fiddling. Feel free to add a little more water, a little more flour, or any more “little more’s” that you would like! Fry a few to see what the batter is asking for to be more or less crispy to your taste. Also play with the flavorings, experiment! Try a dash of ground chipotle pepper to liven up the flavor. This is a resilient batter, that will reward your curiosity easily!
- 1 cup salted cod fish
- 1 cup water
- 1 cup unbleached all purpose flour
- 1 egg
- 2-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 5 Sweet Peppers – (These are small peppers used on the island for flavoring. A half finely minced bell pepper could be a similar substitute.)
- 1 small seeded hot pepper (You can also leave in the seeds, if you love more heat!)
- A handful of chopped parsley
- 1/2 stalk of celery
- 1 medium onion
- Salt and black pepper to taste
- 2 Green Onions
- 2 stalks of Chives
- 1-2 clove of garlic
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- Dash of yellow hot pepper sauce (If you really want to feel the burn!)
- Enough vegetable oil for frying
- Rinse approximately four to five pieces of salted cod fish fillets in cold water to remove the excess salt. Then soak the fish for about an hour. Drain the water and replace it with fresh water. I change the water about three to four times depending on how salty the cod fish is during this hour or two.
- Bring a pot of water to a gentle boil, add the salted fish and simmer in the water for about an hour or until the salt fish can be easily flaked. Remove all visible skin and bones from the fish, flake, and set aside to cool.
- In a food processor, finely mince the onion, celery, sweet and hot peppers, garlic, and parsley. Be careful not to over grind these ingredients. They should still be somewhat individually identifiable.
- In a separate mixing bowl, beat the eggs, then add the flour, water, baking powder. Mix in the salt, black pepper, thyme, chopped scallions, and chives, and all the minced flavors from the food processor.
- Heat about a 1/2-1 inch of oil in frying pan.
- Drop about two tablespoonfuls of the fish cake batter into the hot oil. When it is a golden brown color flip it over gently, being careful not to splatter the hot oil.
- Drain on a wired rack with paper towels below or on simple paper towels.
- Eat hot and enjoy!