Monday, January 25, 2010

Salt cod (bacalao)

I was getting a bit tired of my old "recipe plus anecdote" formula, so this year I've decided to make my blog a bit more free-flowing. There will be recipes too, of course, but I'm also planning to include some kitchen projects, the occasional restaurant review (I will be starting with my favourite spots in Cadiz), some bits and pieces about my local market, and a fair amount of disconnected rambling. I'm also going to try to find space to write about ingredients, to which I'll add a link to any relevant postings elsewhere on my blog.

I thought I'd start with salt cod, mainly because I got a comment from a friend who had a large piece of salt cod in her freezer. I should begin by admitting that I've only actually cooked salt cod myself once before, and it was so long ago I can't remember what I did with it so this will be a learning process for me, too.

Salt cod, as the name suggests, is salted cod, and is widely consumed in Scandinavia, and across Mediterranean Europe, as well as in the Caribbean and down the coast of West Africa. It comes in various grades (almost fresh to dry as a board) and forms (whole fillets, sticks, flakes) and ranges from being quite similar to fresh cod once it has been desalted, to remaining intensely fishy and salty.

One of the reasons I've never bought bacalao in Spain before is that it in Cadiz is sold not in the fish market but in delis. Because I only really go to my local deli to buy ham and salami, I am always wearing my meat hat, not my fish one. [Please, please click the link - I promise you won't regret it!] As a result, I forget that my deli has a large fridge stuffed full of top-grade bacalao. (The photo above was taken on my mobile phone when wandering around the Boqueria Market in Barcelona where, apparently, bacalao is allowed into the market. Strangely enough, when I got back to Cadiz my butcher seemed to have opened up a sideline in bacalao, too. Very confusing!)

Before you do anything to salt cod, you have to desalt it and rehydrate it. To do this, you should rinse it very thoroughly under running cold water, until you have washed all the salt off the fish, then put the fish in a large bowl of cold water, and keep in the fridge for at least 3 days, changing the water a couple of times a day.

bacalao al pil pil
bacalao, chick peas, chorizo and green beans
spaghetti with salt cod, chick peas and green pepper
salt cod mayonnaise

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