~ Scottish Salt Cod for a Tapas Lunch ~
Salt Cod Fritters with Saffron and Pimenton
With the tempting taste of my Tapas lunch the other week still dancing on my taste-buds, I was delighted to receive some lovely fish from Delish Fish the other week; and amongst my wonderful selection of wild Scottish seafood and fish selection were some packets of fresh salt cod; now, I am a BIG lover of salt cod and when I am in France (and Spain) I buy and cook with it often………so, when I saw I had some in my fishy box, I knew exactly what I was going to make with it – Salt Cod Fritters. This is a recipe I developed several years ago now, and although I will show you the step-by-step photos of how to desalinate the salt cod, please be aware that the salt cod I was sent by John was boned and skinned already……..so, ignore that messy and lengthy procedure if you buy any fresh salt cod from John at Delish Fish. Called Bacalao in Spain and Morue in France, this delicacy was born of old fashioned preserving methods and is still as popular today as it was centuries ago, despite the advent of deep fridge freezers and fridges.
Here is part of the article that I posted several years ago, and then the recipe, followed by all of the step-by-step photos too:
Dry salt cod or Bacalao as it is known in Spain is still eaten extensively in many European Mediterranean countries, including France (where it is called Morue) and Spain. The cod, usually from Scotland, Iceland or Norway is brought to northern Spanish shores where it is salted and cured. In the past, the fish used to be air cured hanging on wooden frames called fish flakes near the sea but in modern times different methods are used.
Years ago when there was no electricity to power fridges or freezers, salt curing was the only way to preserve fish and even until recently this was still a necessity for many small poor Spanish (and French) villages. The Bacalao which resembled flat grey bats could be found hanging on lines in small village shops which were often just the front room of someone’s house. Even today Bacalao is still sold this way although it is also available in various other forms such as wrapped in plastic or vacuum packed. You can also buy as well as the whole fish, pieces of the whole fish and the ‘lomo’ which is the tender fleshy fillets.
Even today, when fresh fish is plentiful Bacalao is still as popular as it was generations ago whether in small Spanish (French) villages or “up market” modern restaurants. Perhaps the popularity of Bacalao has remained because of its unique and intense flavour or maybe it’s because of the vast array of exciting dishes which can be prepared using it, I know I love cooking with it.
The trick when choosing a quality piece of Bacalao is to go for the whole pice which has the skin and bones or get a cut from the whole fish as it has the most intense flavour and best texture. A good piece of Bacalao will be slightly grey white in colour, never yellow and although it is dried it should not be stiff but slightly pliable. However, my salt cod from Delish Fish was already filleted, skinned and boned for fabulous ease of preparation and cooking.
In order to get the best out of salt cod it must be prepared properly and that means first cleaning it in running water and then placing it into a dish and covering it with water. The Bacalao must be kept covered and left in a cold place to soak for between 24 and 48 hours with water changes at least three times a day. To test the degree of saltiness, taste a little piece after about 24 hours and leave to soak a little longer if necessary. Remember though never salt any dish made with Bacalao until you taste it at the end of cooking.
Bacalao goes exceptionally well with a variety of ingredients but especially tomatoes, onions, saffron, pimenton, garlic, olives, fresh peppers and dried red peppers. It is extremely versatile and can be used to make many different tapas dishes as well as main meals and soups and stews. Below are some of my favourite Bacalao dishes:
Bacalao al ajo arriero – A recipe which remains unchanged from times when mules were used in Spain to carry seafood from the coasts. Prepared with lots of garlic and tomatoes, this dish was served up in the ancient equivalent of truck stops.
Biscay style Bacalao – A lovely filling spicy dish with a beautiful deep red sauce of dried peppers traditionally cooked in large earthenware dishes over open fires.
Bacalao al pil-pil - Similar to the tapas bar favourite gambas al pil-pil. This chilli garlic cod dish is served still sizzling in the cazuela with lots of fresh bread.
Salt cod fritters – A truly delightful dish reminiscent of days gone by but extremely popular as a modern day tapas dish.
I shall now be demonstrating how to desalinate your salt cod and then make delicious Tapas SALT COD FRITTERS:
That’s all for now, look out for my next Salt Cod recipe later, as well as some more Tea Time Treats and home-made bread too…….have a great day and see you later, Karen.
Disclaimer: With thanks to John at Delish Fish for sending me some fresh salt cod to try.