Friday, 21 February 2014

Salt Cod - how to quickly make your own 'Bacalao' (Spanish salt cod)

Although you can buy (dried) salted fish in the UK it's more likely to be the kind you'd use in Jamaican cooking. A lot of people can find salted fish of this variety a little, well... too salty, and not be overly fond of the texture.

It's certainly not the kind of salted fish you'd want to use in Spanish cooking.

This however, is a fantastic substitute for 'Bacalao', tender and moist with just the right levels of salt - and you don't have to 'de-salt' it overnight to use it, and can prepare it from fresh to finished in under two hours, cooked and ready to eat or use in recipes. Delicious in my Chickpea, White Bean, Salt Cod and Spinach Stew.

Just two ingredients are needed - cod fillets (preferably with skin on) and enough coarse sea salt to evenly cover the flesh. 500g of fresh cod will give you the equivalent of 250-285g de-salted, soaked Bacalao (salt cod).

Method
Place the cod fillets in a single layer, skin side down, on a plate or dish which will catch liquids that are released from the cod when it is salted. Sprinkle reasonably generously (as in photo) with coarse sea salt (don’t use fine salt, or it will be too salty) and leave for an hour (no longer). By this time, the cod will have released some liquid and absorbed some of the salt flavour. Rinse off all of the salt, then place in a large container with plenty of cold water for 30 to 45 minutes, changing the water twice (after 10-15 minutes, then again). Remove, pat dry and it is ready to cook.

Bring a large pan of water to the boil, turn the heat right down to low, and add the salted cod to the water for 5 or 6 minutes, until only just cooked, then remove and put on a plate for a couple of minutes, until cool enough to handle. Use your hands to gently break the cod into large flakes, discarding the skin (and any bones you find), then gently stir into your dish, trying not to break up the flakes too much if for example, it's a stew, or incorporate more firmly into Spanish style fish cakes, before cooking.

Alternatively, you could cook for a few seconds longer, and serve whole with something like my Chilindron sauce (a spanish garnish of onions, peppers and tomatoes, popular served with chicken and fish dishes).

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