March April Cover Recipe : Lemony Leek Cod Cakes

The unpretentious and delicious fish cake gets an upgrade with chunks of fresh cod, tangy lemon zest, and creamy, sautéed leeks.

With the selection of beautiful fish and seafood we have available to us on this island, it makes sense to make the most of it, and sometimes, a simple fillet just won’t cut it. Making cakes out of freshly cooked or leftover fish, different aromatics, and leftover potatoes is a delicious way to do just that. This recipe leaves the fish in nice big pieces so the cakes feel substantial, which is my preference, but feel free to use finely flaked crab, tuna, or salmon in place of the cod. I love the creaminess of sautéed leeks, but green onions, shallots, or finely minced onions work, too.

These cakes freeze well, so while you’re at it, double the batch and freeze them, well wrapped, for up to 2 months. You can freeze them on a sheet pan before you coat them in panko, popping them into a large freezer bag once they’re solid. When you are ready to eat them, thaw in the fridge overnight, then coat in the panko, and fry. Or you can cook them fully and freeze them. Let them thaw in the fridge overnight, then bake at 350F for 20-30 minutes or until warmed through.

Lemony Leek Cod Cakes

Makes 8 cakes.


1 lb fresh skinless cod

2 Tbsp Hellman’s mayonnaise

2 large russet potatoes, peeled and diced (about 3 cups)

1 Tbsp olive oil

1 leek, trimmed and finely diced (about ½ cup)

1-2 garlic cloves, finely minced

2 tsp Dijon mustard

2½ tsp Old Bay seasoning (see note)

2 tsp finely grated lemon zest

2 tsp fresh lemon juice

Seasoned panko breadcrumbs (see note)

2 eggs, whisked

All-purpose flour

Neutral oil for frying (such as canola)


Heat oven to 350ºF. Set the fish on a sheet pan lined in parchment paper.

Spread the mayonnaise evenly over the fish, and season with salt and pepper. Bake for 12-18 minutes (depending on thickness), or until just cooked through. The fish should flake when pulled apart with a fork and still be very tender. Set aside to cool.

While the fish is cooking, bring a pot of salted water to a boil and cook the potatoes until tender, about 10 minutes. Drain the potatoes well, and place in a large bowl. Roughly mash the potatoes with a fork, ensuring no pieces are any larger than a pea.

Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a small sauté pan. Add the leeks and cook slowly, without browning, until softened, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another 1 minute. Season lightly with salt and pepper and add this to the potatoes in the bowl.

Stir in the mustard, Old Bay seasoning, and lemon juice and zest. Taste the mixture and adjust with more seasoning, lemon zest, or salt and pepper if needed.

Once you are happy with the taste, gently flake the fish into large pieces, remove any bones, and gently fold into the potato mixture.

Form the mixture into 8 patties (about 100 grams ((or ½ cup)) each). Set on a tray lined in parchment paper, cover tightly, and refrigerate for 2 hours, or overnight.   

Line up 3 shallow bowls. To one, add about ½ cup of flour. In the next, add the whisked eggs. In the third, place about 1 cup panko. Set an empty plate lined with a paper towel beside the bowls.

Heat a large frying pan over medium-high heat and add about half an inch of oil.

Coat one fish cake with flour. Run it through the egg so it is well coated, then dip it into the panko so it is completely covered. Set on the empty plate. Repeat with the remaining cakes.

Working in batches of 3 or 4, place the cakes in the hot oil. They should sizzle when you put them in the pan. Cook for about 2 minutes, or until nicely browned, then flip and cook for another 2 minutes. Adjust the temperature of the oil, making sure it doesn’t get too hot. Set each cooked cake on the plate lined with a paper towel. Repeat with all the cakes, then serve immediately.  

Note: Old Bay seasoning is a mixture of celery salt, paprika, black pepper, and cayenne, sometimes with cinnamon, ginger, mustard, bay leaves, garlic, or onion powder. It is available at most grocery stores and specialty shops, but if you don’t have any on hand, there are many recipes online to make it yourself.

You can purchase seasoned panko or you can season plain panko with a bit of garlic powder, onion powder, salt, pepper, parsley, or oregano if desired. Keep the seasonings light; you don’t want to overpower the flavours in the fish cake.

Serving suggestion: Fish cakes go great with so many things, but I love a fresh spring salad whose dressing also acts as a nice sauce for the fish.

Throw together some sliced cucumbers and radishes and toss with avocado, feta cheese, sliced green Castelvetrano olives, and lots of fresh soft herbs such as basil, cilantro, mint, chives, dill, and parsley. Thinly sliced pickled red onions make a tangy addition.

Add a dressing by blending together ¾ cup plain yogurt, ¼ cup Hellman’s mayonnaise, 2 Tbsp olive oil, a handful fresh soft herbs, minced garlic, and lemon or lime juice. Season well with salt and pepper.  Let the salad sit at room temperature for 20 minutes before serving.


Image: Rebecca Wellman

Written By:

Having lived on the West Coast all her life, Rebecca made the move from Vancouver to Vancouver Island in 2004 to pursue her love of fine food and expressive portraiture. A food and lifestyle photographer, her work can be defined ...

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