Thursday, 21 October 2010

Every day a little death

 








 
Every day a little death
In the parlor, in the bed
In the curtains, in the silver
In the buttons, in the bread
Every day a little sting
In the heart and in the head
Every move and every breath
And you hardly feel a thing
Brings a perfect little death......


I´m sure Stephen Sondheim is not a bacalhau fan but his lyrics sum it up perfectly. Andrew says it tastes of death and there is one salt cod recipe for every day of the year. My God, 365 ways with salt cod!It is like reading the registry of deaths. Well I´m afraid Andrew is on his own and 11.5 million Portuguese can´t be argued with.They call it the fiel amigo
( faithful friend ). Market stalls brimmeth over with this grey mass.There are said to be over 1000 recipes in Portugal alone and it can be considered the iconic ingredient of Portuguese cuisine (but curiously enough, the only fish that is not consumed fresh by this fish-loving nation).The Portuguese import massive quantities of salted dried codfish every year from Norway ( bacalhau de noruega) and Iceland ( bacalhau de Islandia). Once affordable,this Portuguese treasure has nowadays  been hit by the shortage of cod fish stocks and the dismantling of the Portuguese bacalhoeiro fleet.Traditionally the Portuguese fisherman caught the cod and brought it back to be salted and dried by women in coastal towns.This sparked off a certain theme of Saudade (a longing for the past that is so far into the future it will never be accessable!!!!!) in Fado songs. Women wailing on the beach the "fleet hasn´t returned, the boats must have been wrecked and we will never see our men folk ever again"!!!!
Its an essential part of Christmas menus in Portuguese families, but like flowers on Valentines day, it commands a higher price around the festive season.On Christmas Eve bacalhau rules and Portuguese families gather all over the country to sit down and eat Bacalhau com todos ( salt cod with the lot).
If you don´t  experience a luscious salt cod dish that makes you grateful for each of your senses then you dont deserve Portugal!!! Its ´mouth feel´inspiring food.
And here are my two choices.

pataniscas de bacalhau with chilli dipping sauce

Pataniscas de bacalhau Tailandes
Pataniscas originated in the Algarve: 
There are a few versions around, 
but this is certainly the sort of salt cod dish you can modify. 
I have put a certain Thai stamp on mine.

500g flaked salt cod, desalted and reconstituted
6 kaffir lime leaves, finely chopped 
or 1 stalk lemongrass finely chopped
1teaspoon Nam Pla ( thai fish sauce )
Handful of fresh coriander leaves
2 small hot red chillies, de-seeded and finely chopped
3 spring onions finely chopped
75g fresh bread crumbs
a little flour
oil for shallow frying

Put the fish, Kaffir lime leaves or lemongrass, if using, fish sauce, coriander leaves, chillies and spring onions into a food processor.Blend briefly then tip into a bowl and stir in the breadcrumbs and enough flour to bring the mixture together, it should be firm enough to be able to shape into flat cakes or balls. Mould the mixture with your hands into patties, cakes or balls, to the size you require. The above quantity will make 12 5cm patties. Dust these with a little flour, then fry them in shallow oil till crispy and golden about 3-4 minutes each side.
Serve as a starter, canape or snack with a pot of chilli dipping sauce


Bacalhau a bras
Shredded dried salt cod, fried potatoes and scrambly type eggs
Serves 6-8
750g potatoes
vegetable oil for deep frying
750g salt cod thoroughly soaked ( see below)
3 tablespoons olive oil
150g butter
375g onions peeled and sliced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
salt and pepper
9 eggs
1/2 bunch chopped parsley
1 cup small black olives

Reconstitute the cod in the usual way.( see below)
Skin and bone and wash again. Pull it into small strips, using your fingers. I buy bacalhau desfiado which is the raw shredded cod and will already be boned and shredded and therefore you can omit the stage above.
Peel the potatoes and cut them into fine matchsticks. Pat them dry with paper towel, then deep fry them in hot oil until they begin to colour. Remove and drain on paper towel.
Heat the oil and half the butter in a frying pan and gently cook the onions for about 10 minutes until soft and beginning to colour. Increase the heat, add the garlic and then stir the cod through the mix. Continue to cook for 5 to 6 minutes, until the mix becomes golden. Add salt and pepper to taste, then transfer the mix to a bowl and toss through the potatoes. Heat the remaining butter in the frying pan and add the potato and fish mix.
Beat the eggs and stir them through the mix so they just bind the fish and potatoes but don´t scramble. Serve with the parsley and black olives on top.


Basic Preparation
Most recipes demand that salt cod be well soaked before cooking it. Rinse well under the tap to wash away some of the salt, and place in a roomy bowl, covering it well with cold water. Change the water 4 to 5 times, for a period of 12 hours for very thin cuts, and 24 hours for thicker ones. Before cooking taste a few strands to make sure it is not over salty any more, although it should retain a little saltiness or it will be too bland.
You should not add salt to any dish containing salt cod until you taste it,to take into account the salt remaining in it which will probably be sufficient for seasoning the whole dish.

Weight indicated in recipes refers to the salt cod before soaking.

If you intend cooking salt cod occasionally soak a bit extra and keep the excess in the freezer well wrapped in a plastic bag.

If you do not use the salt cod immediately after buying it, keep the parcel inside a plastic bag and place in the lower part of the fridge. This will prevent it drying out and and making a fishy smell in your fridge.

Use within 2 to 3 weeks

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