Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Bacalao, chick peas, chorizo and green beans

I had some leftover cooked bacalao from my bacalao al pil pil, so I decided to combine it with a jar of chick peas, a fresh chorizo that was lurking in my fridge and some green beans. A combination of typically Spanish ingredients if ever there was one. You could make it with fresh cod or other white fish, although the cooking times will be a bit shorter. I accompanied this with some warm boiled potatoes dressed with the leftover pil pil sauce from the night before.

olive oil
1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
1 fresh chorizo, skinned and sliced
3 cloves of garlic, peeled and sliced
500g of green beans, topped and tailed and cut into 2-inch sections
250g of desalted bacalao (desalting instructions)
400g of cooked chickpeas
a little stock or water

  1. Chop the onion and add it to a large pan with plenty of olive oil and fry gently. Once the onions are nearly done, add the garlic and the chorizo and fry for a couple of minutes.
  2. Add the green beans, add a little stock or water and simmer gently until the beans are almost tender. Add the bacalao and chickpeas, and simmer until the fish is cooked. (About 8 minutes.)

Monday, February 8, 2010

Bacalao al pil pil (salt cod with pil pil sauce)

This is the classic bacalao recipe. In it, the cod is slowly stewed in olive oil which has been flavoured with garlic and chilli, and the oil is then stirred until it emulsifies as a result of the gelatine released by the cod skin. If you want to, you can add a little parsley or even saffron to the sauce, give it a garnish or whatever.

I have to admit that I was a little scared of trying this at first, as the internet is full of complicated advice and people who claim they have never successfully made pil pil. In fact, it is very easy. The keys to it are:
  • making sure that the oil is never too hot (think of it as very gentle stewing in oil, rather than frying) - an earthenware cazuela is good for this, but a heavy-bottomed pan and a low heat should be fine
  • using a tea strainer to emulsify the sauce (the traditional method involves from 15 to 30 minutes of circular shaking of your pan, but with a tea strainer you can achieve the same result in 5 minutes, with minimum effort).

750g desalted bacalao
500ml extra virgin olive oil
3 cloves of garlic
2 dried chillies, soaked for 20 minutes in boiling water

  1. Cut the bacalao into large chunks (I would suggest 2-inch wide strips, cut in half crosswise, so they are about 3 inches long).
  2. Use a large, heavy bottomed frying pan (or, even better, a large earthenware cazuela, as in the photo). Pour the oil into it, add the garlic and whole chillies, and heat gently. After a few minutes, and before the garlic has begun to brown, remove the garlic and chillies from the oil with a slotted spoon and set aside.
  3. Make sure the oil is not too hot (it doesn't matter if it is a little on the cold side at this stage), and add the cod pieces skin side down. Cook very gently for about 10 minutes, then carefully turn over and cook for another 2 minutes or so. With a fish slice, remove the cod pieces to a plate, pour the oil into a heatproof bowl and allow to cool until it is tepid.
  4. Once the oil is tepid, use a ladle to return about half of it to the pan. Put it on a very low heat, and stir it in a circular motion with a tea strainer until it emulsifies. (About 5 minutes.) It should be the consistency of a light homemade mayonnaise. If the sauce is very thick, then just add a little more oil from the bowl and keep stirring. If it starts to congeal a bit, then just give it another whisk with the strainer.
  5. Transfer the fish to individual plates and pour some sauce over it. (If you want to serve the fish hot, then heat it through in the pan with the sauce before serving.)
Cazuela with oil, garlic and chillies

Bacalao 'stewing' slowly in oil over a low heat

Oil cooling down

Stir-fried cuttlefish with chorizo and potatoes

This is another Rick Stein recipe. Fresh chorizo is one of those ingredients which is very strongly associated with Spanish cooking in the UK, but which is not actually that widely used in Spain itself. I'd be curious to know by what process this happened. When I went shopping for this, I wasn't really in the mood for cleaning and preparing squid and anyway the squid in the market was quite expensive, so I went for cuttlefish instead (which comes ready cleaned and is much cheaper). Cuttlefish never seems to be eaten in the UK, although we do feed its 'bones' to budgerigars. I was a little worried that I would be in rubber band territory with my cuttlefish substitution, as it is sometimes a little tougher than squid, but I wasn't. It was very tender and tasty, and I allowed myself a smug "domestic scientist" moment.


500g prepared cuttlefish, cut into strips (or squid, cleaned and cut into rings)
plenty of good olive oil
1 fresh red pepper, seeded and cut into chunks
2 cloves of garlic
1 red chilli
750g new potatoes
1 fresh tomato, chopped into chunks
salt and pepper

  1. Steam or boil the potatoes whole, in their skins. Once they have cooled a little, peel and slice them.
  2. Heat the oil in a large pan, add the cuttlefish and fry for a couple of minutes.
  3. Remove the cuttlefish to a bowl, add the red pepper, garlic, chilli and chorizo to the frying pan and fry for a couple more minutes.
  4. Add the tomato to the pan, and cook for another minute or so.
  5. Return the cuttlefish to the pan, and cook for another minute.
  6. Add the peeled, sliced potatoes and cook until heated through, season with salt and pepper, and serve.