Bacalao al horno con pimientos (Baked Salt Cod with Peppers)

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.  bacalaodesalaoIngredients

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)

Method

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. bacalao12 Fry onions until slightly translucent and then add the peppers for 1 – 2 minutes. bacalao23 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. bacalao34 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. bacalao45 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. bacalao5

Serve and enjoy. I also like it cold but each to their own. bacalao6

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Thai Chilli Coconut Prawns

Using Thai flavour profiles I came up with this dish using left over น้ำพริกเผา Nam Prik Pao (Thai Chilli Paste) from my ต้มยำกุ้งน้ำข้น Tom Yum Goong Nam Khon (Thai Hot & Sour Creamy Prawn Soup) recipe and a bit of my own ingenuity.

You can just as easily make this recipe with peeled prawns but personally I love whole prawns because then you can enjoy sucking the prawns and its head! mmmm prawn brains, my fave!

Ingredients

500g whole prawns

1 stalk lemongrass

4cm galangal

3 garlic cloves

2 Thai red chillies

1 ½ Tbsp. น้ำพริกเผา Nam Prik Pao (Thai Chilli Paste/Jam)

1 Tbsp. Nam Pla (Thai Fish Sauce)

1 Tsp. palm sugar

1 lime, juiced

1 cup coconut milk

3 kaffir lime leaves, torn up

Method

1 Using a mortar and pestle pound the garlic, lemongrass, galangal and Thai chillies into a paste and then incorporate the Nam Prik Pao. namprikprawns12 Fry this paste in vegetable oil for 1 minute and then add the prawns. Toss and fry for a few minutes making sure you coat the prawns in the aromatic paste. namprikprawns23 Add coconut milk, Nam Pla and palm sugar; fry for a few minutes until the sauce slightly reduces. namprikprawns34 Add lime leaves and lime juice and fry for 1-2 minutes. namprikprawns45 Serve with a bowl of Thai jasmine rice. namprikprawnsfeatured

ต้มยำกุ้งน้ำข้น Tom Yum Goong Nam Khon (Thai Hot & Sour Creamy Prawn Soup)

If you love Thai food you will undoubtedly be familiar with Tom Yum as it is Thailand’s quintessential soup but there’s a new kid on the block that has risen to popularity in Thailand. The main difference between these two soups is that the original known as Tom Yum Nam Sai ต้มยำน้ำใส has a clear broth whereas Tom Yum Nam Khon ต้มยำน้ำข้น is creamy. This creamy element is evaporated milk although you can use cream, milk or coconut milk. In fact, some people favour coconut milk which is also delicious but in this recipe I prefer evaporated milk because it is neutral and does not overpower it. If you are looking for a Thai coconut soup I recommend Tom Kha Gai.

As with most Thai soups, remember that the aromatics (lemongrass, galangal, kaffir lime leaves) are not meant to be eaten but as served in the bowl for flavour and a visual representation of its ingredients.

Ingredients

500g fresh whole prawns

5 cups water or chicken stock

2 stalks lemongrass, bruised & cut into long pieces

8 thick slices galangal

6 kaffir lime leaves, bruised & torn

3 Thai chillies, bruised

½ cup evaporated milk

150g oyster mushrooms

2 ½ Tbsp. น้ำพริกเผา Nam Prik Pao (Thai Chilli Paste)

2 – 3 limes, juiced

น้ำปลา Nam Pla (Thai Fish Sauce), to taste

Method

1 First off, make a prawn stock by removing the heads, shells and veins from the prawns (reserve the peeled prawns for later) and frying in a pan with a little oil for a few minutes until the shells turn bright red and have slightly caramelised. Add a bit of water to deglaze the pan and then add the remaining water. Bring to a boil and then simmer on a low heat for 20 minutes. Tomyum1Optional step: In order to maximise the prawn flavour you can blitz the stock using a hand blender and then straining through a fine mesh. Alternatively, you can just fish (pun intended) out the prawn shells out of the stock. I’ve never seen a Thai recipe that actually blitzes it but this is my personal touch. tomyum22 Once the prawn stock is ready bring back to gentle boil and add kaffir lime leaves, galangal, lemongrass and chillies and then simmer on a low heat for 10 minutes to infuse the aromatics in the stock. tomyum33 Dilute the Nam Prik Pao with a few spoonfuls of stock and then add to the prawn stock along with the evaporated milk, 2 Tbsp. Nam Pla and oyster mushrooms. Cook for 1 – 2 minutes on medium heat. tomyum44 Add the shelled prawns to the soup and cook for about 1 minute or until the prawns are cooked to your preference.

5 Turn the heat off and cool slightly (around a minute) and then add half the lime juice. If you add the lime juice in the boiling stock you’ll lose the freshness and perhaps curdle the milk so it’s best to wait a little bit before ruining your hard work.

6 Taste test: taste the soup and adjust lime juice and fish sauce according to your personal preference but keep in mind that it should be quite sour. tomyum57 As with most Thai soups, serve with Thai Jasmine rice. If you’d rather go rogue and against Thai tradition just eat it on its own just like a western style soup; it’s your choice.
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Mexunxe de bonito (Galician Tuna with Red Peppers and Onion)

Mexunxe (pronounced meshunshe) de bonito is the most popular and traditional filling of Empanada Gallega (Galician turnover). I love it so much that when I can’t be bothered to make the actual dish it was invented for, I just make the filling and eat it with some nice crusty Galician bread. It ends up tasting more of the less the same, albeit completely different.

It is best served cold but feel free to warm up if that is what your heart desires; there is no right or wrong way!

Ingredients

1 onion, halved and sliced

1 red pepper, cut into strips

2 tomatoes, grated

2 small tins tuna (80g each)

1 tsp pimenton

Pinch salt

Pinch sugar

Method

1 Fry the onion in olive oil and add a pinch of salt.

2 Add the peppers and fry for 1 minute.Mexunxe de bonito13 Make a well in the centre and add the pimenton for a few seconds before adding the tomato and sugar. Fry on a low heat for 10-15 minutes. Halfway cooking add some water to keep the mixture moist.

4 Once the mixture is nicely cooked add the tuna and cook for circa 5 minutes. If the mixture is too dry add some water to loosen it up slightly.Mexunxe de bonito25 Leave it to cool completely and enjoy with bread.Mexunxe de bonito

Asian – Style Steamed Seabass

I know a lot of people like to eat their fish in fillets without evidence that it did once have bones and a head but I prefer eating fish whole. You could make this recipe with fillets but for those who are not squeamish, I’d definitely recommend using the whole fish.

I normally eat seabass mediterranean style with lots of garlic, parsley and lemon but I wanted to shake things up today and have been in an Asian mood. Thus this seabass was born. Hope you enjoy as much as I did.

I wanted to use my Thai-stacked steamer for this recipe but the fish was so massive that it didn’t fit so I had to settle for using a baking tray and covering it with aluminium foil instead.

Ingredients

1 whole seabass, gutted and scaled

5cm piece ginger, cut into strips

1 – 2 spring onions, cut lengthwise into strips

1 red chilli

1 Tbsp ajo y perejil (or sliced garlic)

1 Tbsp sesame oil

2 Tbsp light soy sauce

1 Tbsp dark soy sauce

1 tsp Chinese 5 Spice

2 Tbsp Shaoxing Rice Wine

Dried shiitake mushrooms, rehydrated in cold water

Shiitake Dashi (water from rehydrating the shiitake mushrooms)

Garnish:

1/2 spring onion, cut lenghwise into stips

1cm fresh ginger, cut lenghwise into stips

1/2 red chilli, cut lenghwise into stips

Method

1 Place the whole fish on a bed of ginger and spring onions to prevent it from sticking to the bottom of the baking tray and also to give it that all important fragrance. Make incisions all along the fish and then massage on some ajo y perejil into all the nooks and crannies.

2 Dress ginger, red chilli and spring onions with garlic, sesame oil, light soy sauce, dark soy sauce, Chinese 5 spice and Shaoxing rice wine. Insert this mixture into the incisions and then pour over the sauce. Throw in some shiitake mushrooms into the pan and top with shiitake dashi to allow steam to be created inside the tray.
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3 Cover with aluminium foil and steam in the oven for 10 – 15 mins, depending on the size of the fish. To check if it is ready make sure the skin and flesh pull away easily from the bone.

4 Garnish with fresh ginger, chilli and spring onions.
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Serve with Shiitake and Wakame Rice

Caldereta de bacalao fresco y gambas (Cod and Prawn Caldereta)

This traditional Spanish fish stew uses two techniques that you may be unfamiliar with: “majado” and chascar”.

The “majado” is a paste, most commonly consisting of fried bread, almonds and garlic, which is pounded in a pestle and mortar. Apart from flavour it also helps to thicken up the stew. This majado is also good in meat & poultry stews especially if the liver is also pounded into the majado.

“Chascar” is a technique whereby a potato is cut in a way that helps it to release its starch during the cooking process. To chascar you need to hold the whole potato in your hand and start to cut a chunk but stop a little bit before you get to the end. At this point you can use the knife as a lever to rip off the potato chunk towards you. This means that the potato will have an uneven surface, which apparently aids the potato to release more starch during the cooking process and by consequence will thicken the stew. I don’t know if scientifically this makes any sense but this is how my mother and her mother and countless other generations have typically cut potatoes for stews, and so I follow suit. To see how to chascar follow this link. Alternatively, you can just cut the potato however you prefer .

Ingredients

Fish stock:

Cod head and/or other fish scraps

Prawn shells

3 cloves

2 bay leaves

½ onion

Majado:

Olive oil

1 bread slice, crusts removed

2 garlic cloves

5 almonds

1-2 Tbsp. fish stock

Caldereta:

2 ripe tomatoes, grated

1 tsp. sweet pimenton (or paprika)

3 dried cayenne chillies

2 garlic cloves, sliced

3 potatoes, chascadas or cut into chunks

1 bunch of fresh parsley, coarsely chopped

4 slices cod

A few peeled prawns

Method

Make a stock with the cod head and other fish scraps, cloves, bay leaves and ½ an onion. Bring to the boil, skim off the impurities and then simmer for 10 minutes. Sieve and reserve.

Make the majado by toasting the almonds in a dry frying pan and then frying the bread in oil until toasted. Transfer to a pestle and mortar along with the garlic and pound into a paste. Add a bit of the previously made fish stock and combine well. Set aside.

1 Fry garlic and chillies. Add the pimenton and quickly add the grated tomatoes so that the pimenton doesn’t burn. Fry for 2-3 minutes.

2 Add the stock and majado and simmer on low for 10 minutes.

3 Add the potatoes (chascadas or not) and cook for a further 10 minutes.

4 Add the fish and cook for 5 minutes.

5 Add the prawns and cook for 3-4 minutes.

6 Remove from the heat, add the fresh parsley, cover and let it rest for 5-minutes.

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Sepia con patatas (Baked Cuttlefish with Potatoes)

In the UK, squid is very popular but I have hardly ever seen its relative the cuttlefish, except for in my mother’s kitchen, on many menus. The cuttlefish itself is an amazing creature known as the “chameleon of the sea” because of its impressive camouflage capabilities. This doesn’t mean however that I do not enjoy eating it…

Ingredients

3 potatoes, unpeeled and sliced into rounds

1 medium cuttlefish, cleaned and cut into chunks

1 onion, cut into half moons

5 cloves of garlic, whole

2 Tbsp. Ajo y perejil

2 Tbsp. sweet pimenton (or paprika)

4 tsp. chilli powder

4 tsp. mixed herbs

2 tsp. Thyme

Salt and pepper, to taste

A good glug of olive oil

½ lemon, juice

1 glass white wine

1 small glass water

Method

1 Marinade the cuttlefish chunks with the ajo y perejil marinade, pimenton, thyme, chilli, mixed herbs, salt and pepper. Set aside.

Place potato slices on the bottom of an ovenproof dish and add salt, pepper, pimenton, chilli, thyme and mixed herbs. Drizzle with olive oil and coat well. 

3 Add the cuttlefish on top of the potatoes and drizzle with olive oil and lemon juice. Add a glass of white wine and a small glass of water.
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4 Bake in a hot oven for 30 minutes.
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