"Bacalao" or dried salt cod is as popular today in Spain as it was generations ago when there were no fridges and the only way to preserve cod was in salt. There are many modern Spanish recipes which still call for bacalao and the trick is to choose a piece which still has the skin for a more intense flavour. The following recipe has been around for generations and when I made it for some neighbours recently they told me it brought back wonderful childhood memories of family gatherings.
You will need (serves 6-8):
1 whole piece of dried salt cod
3 medium potatoes
3 cloves garlic
Generous handful fresh parsley
1 bay leaf
2 tablespoons plain flour
How to cook:
1. A day or two before you plan to make this dish, place the salt cod into a large casserole dish and cover with water. Put the lid on and place in the fridge for 24-36 hours changing the water three or four times.
2. When the cod has been soaked long enough, drain and cut into 3 or 4 large pieces. Put back into the dish, cover with fresh water, add the bay leaf and bring to the boil. Then lower the heat and cook slowly for about 10 minutes.
3. Meanwhile peel and chop the potatoes and cook in fast boiling water for about 10 minutes until just tender. When the potatoes are done, drain and place back on the heat for a minute or so to dry out and then mash well.
4. When the cod has been simmering for about 10 minutes, remove the dish from the heat and remove the fish using a slotted spoon and place onto a large plate to cool slightly. Reserve the liquid.
5. Peel and crush the garlic, finely chop the parsley and mix with the mashed potatoes.
6. When the cod is cool enough to handle, carefully remove the skin and bones and flake the fish gently to break it up. Mix the fish with the mashed potatoes.
7. In a small saucepan, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil and mix in the flour, then cook gently for a minute or so. Remove from the heat and add a little of the cooking liquid at a time stirring continuously until you have a thick smooth paste. Then beat in the eggs one at a time.
8. Add this sauce to the cod and potato mixture, mix well and cook over a medium heat for about 5-8 minutes, stirring all the time until the mixture thickens. When done, the mixture should still look like mashed potato and be a bit sticky. Remove the pan from the heat and allow to cool.
9. when the mixture has cooled enough to handle, heat a generous amount of olive oil in a small deep frying pan until it shimmers (just before smoking)
10. Scoop out a little of the mixture using a spoon and make into balls, then drop them into the hot oil about 5 or 6 at a time and cook for 3 or 4 minutes until golden brown. Drain on kitchen towel and repeat with the rest of the mixture.
11. Serve with lemon wedges, and alioli (garlic mayonnaise)