Saltfish Cakes with Red Pepper Tapenade

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We have lost the habit of eating saltfish, although stockfish was one of the great staples of our diet in the days before refrigeration. I thought this up on a recent trip to Barbados where saltfish remains one of the mainstays of the island food supply, as it has been since the slave days of the eighteenth century. Saltfish must be well soaked – 24 hours in cold water changed at regular intervals is about right. The idea of using red peppers in tapenade I learnt from that hero of late twentieth-century cooking, the brilliant Robert Carrier.

Ingredients

  • 450 g/1 lb salt cod, soaked
  • 450 g/1 lb white-fleshed sweet
  • potatoes (or ordinary potatoes if not available)
  • a bunch of spring onions, finely chopped
  • 2 eggs
  • salt and freshly ground pepper
  • oil

For the Red Pepper Tapenade

  • 2 red peppers
  • 225 g/8 oz black olives, stoned
  • 1 tbsp French mustard
  • 55 g/2 oz anchovy fillets
  • 55 g/2 oz capers
  • 150 ml/¼ pint olive oil

Method

First make the tapenade. Skin your red peppers by the grilling method, then chop them. Place all the ingredients, except the olive oil, in a mortar or food processor and pound or process together. Drizzle in the oil slowly as for mayonnaise and blend until the tapenade has a grainy, fairly coarse texture. Keep in a cool place.

Simmer your soaked cod in fresh water for 10 minutes, then drain, remove skin and bones, and flake with a fork.

Ensure your sweet potatoes are fresh or they will discolour. Peel and boil in salted water until soft – they take about twice as long as ‘Irish Potatoes’ (this is what our potatoes are called in Barbados). Drain and mash well.

At this stage I usually put it all in a food processor. Mix together the fish, mashed sweet potatoes, spring onions and eggs, and season to taste. Form into small fishcakes and fry in hot oil until golden brown on both sides. Serve hot with the tapenade.

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