One of the things that I most love about travelling is getting to know another culture via their food. Not so much walking a mile in another man’s shoes, but taking several meals at their table perhaps?
One of my most memorable meals was a simple plate of salt cod, which I ate with Ed, at the Petersham Nurseries, when Skye Gyngell was the head chef. Rich, succulent and delicious. I recently ate Bakalar a salt cod and potato stew; traditionally served on Christmas Eve, at the Croatian Tourist board’s Christmas party at the end of last year, which I have recreated here for the Expedia World on a Plate Challenge.
Traditionally the dish will use dried salted cod – a leathery completely dried out salted fish, that needs to soak for two days to rehydrate. I usually make my own semi-cured salted cod – simply coat fillets of fish in salt and leave in the fridge for a couple of days. The salt draws out water from the fish, concentrating the flavour and firming the texture. I salt a few pieces at once and then freeze them.
Bakalar, Croatian Cod Stew
- 2 cod fillets – about 120g each
- 2 tbs good quality sea salt
- 500 g potatoes
- 2 tbs good quality olive oil
- 1 small onion – sliced
- 2 cloves garlic – chopped
- Juice half a lemon
- 200 ml vegetable stock
- Place the cod fillets on to a wire or plastic rack (I use the basket of my salad spinner) and liberally coat with the salt. Loosely cover with clingfilm, stand on a plate and leave at the bottom of the fridge for two days, turning once, and discarding any liquid that is drawn out. Rinse well and pat dry with a sheet of kitchen paper.
- Peel and boil the potatoes until cooked and then cut into 1cm thick slices. Whilst the potatoes are cooking fry the onions and garlic in the olive oil until soft. Add the potatoes to the onions, pour over the lemon juice and stock and simmer over a gentle heat for a few minutes.
- Cut the cod into 2cm cubes, add the potato mixture and gently cook for another 5 minutes or so until it is soft and flaky. Serve immediately with a generous sprinkling of parsley.