Salt Cod Fritters (Accras de morue)

Categories Caribbean, Fish, Snacks, Appetisers, Finger food

Happy New Year, my dear visitors ! I hope you have spent wonderful time enjoying delicious festive food. My holidays, from Christmas till New Year’s Eve, were filled mostly with wraps, canapés, rolls and other snacks. In spite of what I had worried about, preparing such kind of food for two was easier and more convenient than traditional festive “proper” meals. I cooked big batches which meant a new meal meant a short trip to the fridge, and sometimes a couple of minutes in the microwave or in the oven… Actually, I think I’ll repeat this particular menu pattern every single year! Though not planned in my shortlist, these fritters were one of the festive dishes we’ve particularly enjoyed as the only fish item. This was a good occasion to take new photographs and post again this old recipe from 2011.

“Accras/Acras de morue” (pronounced “akh-ra de morew“), probably the most famous Carribbean dish from French West Indies, are small fritters made with salted cod (“morue” in French; fresh cod is “cabillaud”), flour and seasonings. These snacks are utterly addictive and easy to prepare (though time consuming); if carefully prepared, they will be crisp outside, soft inside and not greasy. Similar preparations exist in Portugal and Spain (and maybe in other countries), but I know the Caribbean version, popular in mainland France where it is often served at parties.

If you have never tasted salted cod (to be precise it was salted and dried), it might be slightly off-putting for some when raw because of its strong smell, which weakens a lot once the fish is cooked (and which for me isn’t unpleasant, anyway). Salting and drying allows a longer fish preservation and this is the original aim of this process, but there is also a collateral benefit: the normally bland and common cod  (at least in my opinion…) acquires interesting and complex flavours. There are many ways to eat salted cod (especially in Portuguese cuisine, from what I’ve heard), but whenever I see this product, I always think of acras de morue.

This fish preserving technique has a very long history. Apparently Basques were the first in Europe to trade internationally the salted cod already before the year 1000. If you want to read a fascinating cod trade history, I strongly advise the extraordinary “Cod. A biography of the Fish that Changed the World” by Mark Kurlansky.

The below recipe (modified) comes from Festins Créoles (English version is entitled “Creole” by Babette de Rozières, a French chef from Guadeloupe. I’ve modified it, so if you want to read the original, check this fascinating cookery book.

TIPS: As I have mentioned, salted cod might be convenient as emergency food, since keeps for ages in the fridge, but unfortunately, whatever you plan, you have to desalt it first and it is time-consuming. There are two main methods. The first is the most popular and consists in soaking the fish for 24 hours, changing the water at least three times. The second consists in boiling the fish in several changed water batches until it is desalted. I prefer the former, which is much easier, though takes more time.

Make sure the batter is at room temperature (leave it – covered – for several hours in the kitchen): it will cook quicker inside and you will avoid burning the outside.

Some people manage to obtain smooth oval accras, but I have no idea how they do it… mine are always “shaggy” and each has a slightly different form (most homemade accras look this way anyway, so I don’t worry too much).

Whenever I deep-fry several batches of any food consumed hot, I always put a baking dish in the oven heated at 100°C, lined with paper towels. I fry one batch, drain it on paper towels and then put into the baking dish, so that it remains warm until the last batch (and the paper lining adds an additional fat draining step). This way, most food – apart from tempura – can also wait at least 30 minutes before being served or can be served in two times.

These fritters are delicious served with garlic mayonnaise, hot mango sauce, apricot and chili jelly or with any slightly tangy dip/sauce. I always serve them also with Pickled Sweet Pepper or Pickled Hot Pepper and recently  with Moomins Cucumber Salad.

Last more tip: if you ever go to mainland France, beware : there is a big chance you will be served a subpar version. Unless you are in a good Caribbean restaurant or taste a homemade version, your acras will probably be soggy, oily, with low fish content and heavy batter. I must say I’ve had acras dozens of times and only homemade ones were good.

Preparation time: about 1h (+ 24h desalting+ at least 2-3 hours)

Ingredients (makes a starter for 4-6 people or a main dish for 3-4, if served with a big salad):

250g (about 0.55 lb) salted cod fillet (without skin or 300 g if it’s with skin)

150g (about 1 cup) flour

150 ml (about 5 oz) milk + water (see the explanations below)

1/2 package baking powder (or enough baking powder for 250g/0.55 lb flour; usually the packages I buy are each for 500g flour, it’s usually written at the back of the package; my half-package weighs 8 grams/0.28 oz)

salt

2 small hot fresh chilies, finely chopped (medium hot, such as jalapeños are best in my opinion)

1 small onion or big shallot, finely chopped

3 garlic cloves, finely chopped or crushed or grated (take one if you are not a huge garlic fan, like me)

2-3 tablespoons of chopped parsley

oil for deep-frying

Cover the salted cod with cold water and put into the fridge for 24 hours.

Change the water 3-4 times during that period, rinsing it every time you change the water.

Once desalted, put the cod into a pan with cold water.

Bring the water to boil and let the cod simmer (at low heat) for 10 more minutes.

When the cod has cooled down, shred it discarding the bones (I advise shredding the flesh so that the bones are easier to spot).

In a big bowl shred finely the flesh with a fork and mix well with the chilies, the onion, the parsley, the garlic, the baking powder and the milk. (You can mix everything in a food processor, but I prefer to feel the texture of shredded cod bits, so I always mix everything by hand).

Taste the mixture before adding the flour (it’s doesn’t taste great with flour added…) and if it’s not salty at all (this depends on how well you have desalted the cod), start with 1/2 teaspoon salt, adding maximum 1 flat teaspoon. Afterwards, the saltiness will increase with the flour’s addition, so don’t exaggerate : you will adjust it at worst while frying the the first fritter.

Now add the flour and, if necessary, enough water to create a very thick batter (it should ressemble a Greek yogurt).

Put the batter into the fridge for 12 hours or leave it (covered) at room temperature for 2-3 hours. If you are really in a hurry, you can even fry the fritters after 30 minutes at room temperature, but the flavours from parsley, garlic, chillies and onion might not be as strong as after several hours. The batter might also not raise very well…in short, I cannot guarantee the result if you fry them straight away.

Take it out several hours before frying to avoid burning during the frying process and to accelerate it.

Heat the oven to 100°C. Place a baking dish into the oven and line it with paper towel. This will allow you to keep warm all the batches while you fry the following ones (see the TIPS).

Heat the oil in a pan. Make a test: if you throw a small bit of batter and it stays on the surface, creating bubbles and puffs, then the oil is usually hot enough.

Take the batter’s portions with a teaspoon (a heaped teaspoon makes a perfectly-sized fritter) and fry them until golden.

You might have to check the first fritter if it’s well cooked inside and adjust the heat, the frying time or the number of fritters fried at the same time. Remember also to check the saltiness of the first fritter, in case you must add more salt to the batter.

Drain the fritters on paper towels and place into the baking dish in the oven to keep every batch warm.

Serve hot.

14 thoughts on “Salt Cod Fritters (Accras de morue)

  1. Great minds think alike. I made something similar (salt cod cakes) almost exactly 2 yrs ago. 🙂

    I find the de-salting/rehydrating to be tricky. You want the fish moist and plump and the ‘excess’ salt removed … but sometimes you get rid of too much of the salt and have to add some back. My mom used to break off a piece of the dried fish and taste it to check.

    1. Thank you, A_Boleyn. I always assume that the desalting process takes out 100% of the salt from the fish (if I really do it for about 10-12 hours or more, changing water and rinsing 4 times, it’s always not salty at all), but I make sure also tasting a small bit once the fish is boiled (here it’s easy : you don’t have to taste raw dry fish, but the cooked one!).

  2. My goodness I’m not sure where to start! So here goes: HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!!! Hope you had a wonderful December and that 2018 is off to a great start. Love the way you celebrated the holidays…simple and tasty. We deserve to make life easier now and then and nothing wrong with kitchen shortcuts. Last week I made 3 different stews and we’ve been eating on them all week. 🙂

    LOVE your new look!!!! So simply, easy to navigate and very streamline, just like your recipes. How hard was it to redesign? I’m planning on a redesign of my site this year, so any information you can give me would be greatly appreciated.

    Can you believe I’ve never had salted cod? Not even sure where to find it here. I have had cod, which, as you say, is rather bland. I remember having to use lots of seasoning and sauces to give a dish with cod any appeal at all. Since you call these fritters, then I know that I would love them because I’ve never met a fritter I didn’t like. 🙂 Just the thought of a batter fried salted fish sounds so good.

    1. Dear MJ, thank you so much for the wishes. Happy New Year to you too! I will make snacks and similar “couch” food next year too! I have been doing it when having guests for the past years (we prefer to it in the living room rather than at the table), but I must say I have never considered doing it from Christmas to New Year’s Eva while we are alone. It was such fun!
      Thank you soooo much for the compliments! I am not 100% happy yet, but I’m glad I have finally changed the theme (I have been putting it off for so many years!). It takes a minute to change the blog’s theme (at least in WordPress) but it takes many hours to find one that you like. Then you might have some minor issues (such as, in my case, the old photographs’ resolution is a bit too small for this new theme viewed for big screens), want to change colours or other things, but it’s usually not difficult to fix or modify (I do it on my own, there’s lots of tips and advice on internet). I must work more on the visual side of my blog… after so many years I don’t have any logo yet…
      Let me know if you need any help or advice in the layout change process (though, as you will have noticed!, when it comes to technical changes and fixes I’m definitely not a specialist! I will happily share what I know).
      I cannot understand why the cod has become so expensive and suddenly considered as “excellent” fish! When I was a child it was the cheapest fish one could get and I always found it bland and boring when fresh. Here I discovered it salted; it totally changes the taste and suddenly it’s really good (though doesn’t compare to really excellent fish). I will try to post another salted cod dish I love and I hope you will be able to taste it one day! (Though this dish would be excellent with other fish or seafood: in France it’s sometimes made with shrimp).

  3. Lovely new blog design Sissi – I like the sizing and visual clarity – a nice refresher for the new year! I hope it’s a wonderful one for you. I know very little about fish preparation but have always admired your adventures. Your battered cod looks incredibly delicious and frankly I would opt for shaggy over smooth any day of the week! :).

    1. Thank you so much, Kelly, for all the compliments. It’s not perfect yet, but it’s already an improvement… it’s really difficult to find a good theme… It’s not really a battered cod: it’s much better (in my opinion) : deep-fried shredded dried cod batter (though it does look like battered cod a bit!).

  4. Your fritters look gorgeous, perfectly golden and crispy! I think the oil has to be super hot so that the fritters begin to cook right away and not soak in the tepid oil. Your tips are fantastic too. Surviving the holidays with little finger foods is perfect, I also like it because you can eat as few or as many as you choose, not a whole plate of food set in front of you.
    Love your new look for the blog, so fresh and clean such a nice change for the new year! Happy New Year to you too, hope it brings you health and happiness!

    1. Thank you so much, Eva. It was the only deep-fried food I had during holidays (I swapped falafels for these fritters). You are right: the oil has to be very hot, but also the batter has to be warm (if it’s straight from the fridge it cooks slowly and burns at the edges). Thank you so much for kind words about the new blog look! I still hope to improve it! Happy New Year to you too!

  5. We eat salted cod here on 25th of March in which we celebrate our liberation from Turks in 1821 and also the breaking of news to Maria that Jesus is going to be born. We eat salted cod fried with scordalia which is a spread with garlic. I love your version too!

    1. Thanks a lot, Katerina. I had no idea it was also eaten in Greece (I must check my Greek cookery books!). It sounds excellent with garlic scordalia (I’ve never tasted it, but I read about it and it sounds amazing, especially since it contains garlic!).

  6. Happy New Year, Sissi. A great start with a new blog look! I have never had salted cod, but I would love to have the chance to try these fritters, they look so crunchy and delicious.

  7. Happy New Year Sissi. Love the clean new look of your blog, Sissi…it’s the perfect way to start the new year. When we lived in New Hampshire, we would drive down to the Italian section of Boston to buy salted cod at Christmas time. However, I’ve not seen it being sold here in our small town in Florida.

    1. Thank you so much, Karen! Happy New Year! I am lucky many Portuguese live in my city (and people with Portuguese origins) and they love salt cod, so it’s easily available all year round. I think salt cod should be more popular everywhere: it’s such a clever way to preserve fish… I always buy a cod fillet without any particular wish to cook it soon and keep it for months in the fridge. It’s so practical!

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