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Eating well

November 17, 2017

Mark McEwan’s salt cod and crab fritters

This is celebrity chef Mark McEwan’s healthy take on a classic East-Coast appetizer — and despite the main ingredient, it’s not salty!

For hundreds of years, salt cod has been a kitchen staple for Newfoundlanders and other East Coasters. Salting the fish preserved it when no refrigeration was available, but good cooks knew even then how to soak the cod in milk to get the salt out. Portuguese fishermen on the Grand Banks created their own version of salt cod fritters, as did the West Indians who took salt cod as payment in the rum trade.

Today, celebrity chef Mark McEwan soaks salt cod in at least 4 changes of milk, then adds a twist with that other Newfoundland mainstay, crabmeat. The end result is an appetizer that’s low enough in fat, sodium and carbs even for diners living with diabetes, but high enough in taste for everyone to enjoy.

Makes 24 1” (2.5cm) x 2” inch (5 cm) fritters.


  • 1 lb. (500 g) salt cod
  • 3 quarts (3 L) milk
  • 2 large russet or Yukon Gold potatoes (1½ lb. / 750 g)
  • 8 oz. (250 g) crabmeat, picked over
  • ½ cup (125 mL) chopped parsley
  • 1 tbsp. (15 mL) minced oregano
  • 1 tsp. (5 mL) chili flakes
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • zest of ½ lemon, minced
  • Ground pepper to taste
  • 2½ cups (625 mL) whole-wheat bread crumbs
  • 4 eggs
  • flour for dredging
  • Canola and olive oil for deep frying
  • 1 lemon, cut into eighths


  1. Place salt cod in a snug container with a lid. Add enough milk to cover and soak, covered, for 48 hours, changing the milk at least 4 times. Drain the cod and discard the soaking milk, and transfer the cod to a sauté pan.
  2. Cover with fresh milk, bring to a simmer, and poach for 15 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, peel and dice the potatoes and boil them in salted water until tender. Drain, and crush the potatoes with a fork or potato masher. (For a smoother-textured fritter, pass the potatoes through a ricer.) Transfer the potatoes to a large bowl.
  4. Remove the cod from the milk and allow to cool slightly. Remove all bones from the cod, and then flake the flesh with a fork and add it to the potatoes.
  5. Break up the crabmeat with a fork and add it to the potatoes and cod, followed by the parsley, oregano, chili flakes and garlic. Mix well. Add ½ cup (125ml) of the bread crumbs and mix again. Beat 2 of the eggs and work into the cod mixture. Set aside.
  6. In a shallow dish, lightly beat the remaining 2 eggs. Spread the flour and the remaining 2 cups (500ml) of bread crumbs in 2 other shallow dishes.
  7. Fill a deep cast-iron skillet with 1 inch (2.5cm) of equal parts canola and olive oil. Heat to 360°F (180°C).
  8. Meanwhile, wet your hands under cold running water and shape the cod mixture into small croquettes about 1 inch (2.5 cm) wide and 2 inches (5 cm) long – like potato croquettes.
  9. Roll each one first in the flour, then in the egg and finally in the bread crumbs.
  10. Fry, turning once, until crisp and golden, 3 to 5 minutes.
  11. Drain briefly on paper towels, then serve on a platter with the lemon wedges.

Nutrition per fritter:

Calories 180
Fat 9g
Saturated fat 1g
Cholesterol 50mg
Sodium 660mg
Carbohydrate 13g
Fibre 1g
Sugars 1g
Protein 9g

Are you at risk of having pre-diabetes or type 2 diabetes?

Take the CANRISK test to estimate your chance of developing type 2 diabetes or pre-diabetes (a condition where blood sugar levels are higher than normal but not yet at the level of diabetes). Knowing your risk level can help guide your diet choices and inform your conversations with your doctor.

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