Back home in Labrador our traditional foods are influenced Scottish, English and Inuit dishes, created in a harsh environment where not much fresh produce will grow. There was an emphasis on local wild meats, root vegetables and the staples: flour, baking powder, salt, sugar, molasses and tea; all of which could survive the long trek to Canada’s north, and could keep well once it they make it to their destination. Labrador women have a long history of getting creative with just a handful of ingredients. One such recipe is for pan fried fish cakes, often made with Atlantic salmon. This is my Mom’s specialty and she’s won cooking contests with this recipe as well as with the version featuring caribou meat instead of salmon. The base recipe is quite simple, but getting the texture of the batter, the ratio of meat to batter, as well as oil temperature can be tricky. (Sometimes cured pork fat is rendered or added as well). Like many family recipes, there isn’t an actual recipe so you kind of watch the family matriarch, then try to do what she does. After 2-3 times you will have it perfected according to your families tastes.
Salmon Cakes (Fritters)
1.5 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
Approximately ½ a salmon fillet or two steaks, cut into ½ inch cubes
½ onion or more, diced
Enough water to make a thick batter
Salt and pepper to taste (about 1/4 tsp each)
Approximately 1/4 cup of vegetable oil (enough to fully coat the bottom of your pan)
Preheat oil in a large sauté pan. In one bowl mix the flour, baking powder, salt and pepper. Starting with about 1/2 cup, add enough water to make a thick batter (my Mom says it’s like a thick pancake batter). In another bowl add the cubed salmon and onion. Add a few dollops of dough to the fish and mix, adding dough until everything sticks together. (There should be more fish than dough). Take heaping tablespoons and place in hot oil to make cakes about 2 inches in diameter. Cakes should be a couple of inches apart in the pan. Cook until deep, golden brown on both sides and cooked through. If making these for a crowd, put cooked cakes in a pan in the oven at about 200F until ready to serve.
Updated September 2015 to suggest a slightly less thick batter.