Salt cod -‘bacallà’- is a vital staple of Catalan cuisine. The first reference to salt cod in Catalonia dates from 1640, and today there are said to be literally hundreds of ‘bacallà’ recipes known to Catalan cuisine.
Cod vendors ‘bacallaners’ are very popular in our markets. Their market stalls are an heritage of the Roman market, where fish preserved was sold.
Salting (and drying) is a means of preservation. Salt cod is simply fresh cod cured either in tanks of brine or in huge kenches (bins) packed with rock salt, then dried either in the sun and wind (the traditional method, obviously) or in temperature-controlled drying rooms.
With rare exceptions, salt cod is always desalted before it’s used – and if it’s desalted correctly, it ends up retaining no more salt than fresh fish does. The traditional way is to desalt by soaking it in plain water, in the refrigerator, for about 48 hours – changing the water 3 or 4 times a day.
Salting and drying cod preserves the fish, but it also transforms it into a delicious food, turns it ivory-smooth in texture, crystallizes (if you will) its flavour. Fresh cod, if the truth be told, is really rather an insipid fish; but salt cod recipes are about taking an ordinary dish and making it heavenly!
It is also a must for Lent in Catholic countries, when meat and poultry were strictly forbidden.
BACALLÀ AMB MEL ( Salt cod with honey)
It is a medieval recipe the origin of which could be in the monastery of Poblet
Ingredients (4 servings)
- 125 gr of desalted cod fillet
- 50 ml of water
- 100g + 150 gr of flour
- 1 teaspoonful of powdered yeast
- 150 gr of honey
- olive oil
- Cut the cod into 5 cm square pieces.
- Prepare the batter mixing the flour with water, yeast and honey until obtaining a smooth, uniform mass with the dessired texture.
- Lightly flour the cod pieces and pass them through the batter.
- Fry in hot oil for some few minutes (160ºC). Drain it on kitchen paper and season with a pinch of salt.
- Serve immediately. You can serve it with a salad with escarole leaves, raisins and pine-nuts.