The full name for salt cod in Spanish is bacalao en salazón but it is so popular that it is simply known as bacalao (cod). If you want fresh cod you actually have to specify and ask for bacalao fresco. Salt cod features in traditional recipes all over Spain such as Bakailaoa Bizkaiko from the Basque Country, Ajo Arriero from Castilla la Mancha, Bacalao a la Galega from Galicia, Esgarraet from Valencia or Buñuelos de Bacalao from all over Spain. This recipe however is an adaptation of a dish one of my parent’s friends from Tenerife used to make. The original chef refused to share the recipe with my mother but she worked it out herself and since then it has become a family favourite.
In my house we traditionally save this recipe for special occasions such as Good Friday when we are meant to abstain from meat and Christmas Eve. Christmas Eve in Spain is BIG and is actually more elaborate than Christmas Day itself.
Before cooking salt cod you have to desalt otherwise it would be completely inedible!
How to desalt salt cod:
1 Wash the salt cod pieces under cold running water to remove the visible salt off the surface.
2 Completely submerge the salt cod in cold water and leave to soak in the fridge.
3 You need to soak the salt cod for at least 48 hours and change the water every 6 – 12 hours.
4 To check if it has been desalted enough you can try a piece of the flesh; it should be slightly salty but not a kick in the teeth. Ingredients
1 kg salt cod pieces, desalted
4 peeled potatoes, cut into medium thick rounds
1-2 onions, half moons
1 red pepper, cut into strips
2 ripe tomatoes, grated
2 tsp. sweet pimentón
1 Tbsp. sugar
200g pitted green olives
1 glass white wine or beer (water is also an option)
1 Boil the potatoes in unsalted water for around 10 minutes; they do not need to be fully cooked as they will be baked later on. Once they are cooked, rinse in cold water and layer on the bottom of an ovenproof dish. 2 Fry onions until slightly translucent and then add the peppers for 1 – 2 minutes. 3 Add pimentón and then quickly add the grated tomato to make sure the pimentón doesn’t burn. Mix well and then add sugar and wine or beer. Cook on a low flame. 4 Meanwhile cook the bacalao in cold water until it comes to a boil and then carefully strain making sure you don’t break the fish. Save some of the water from boiling the salt cod and add to the pepper sauce. At this point you can remove the sauce from the heat. 5 Now it’s time to assemble: lay the salt cod pieces on top of the potatoes, spoon over the sauce and add olives. Make sure there is enough sauce to submerge the potatoes, if not add some wine/beer/water. Bake in a hot preheated oven for 20 – 30 minutes.
Serve and enjoy. I also like it cold but each to their own.