From bacalhau to beignet with a gentle tap

At first glance you might well be excused for thinking you had got lost and ended up in a scrap yard. Rigid as cement, it looks gray and ghastly and smells even worse, but do not flinch.This is how bacalhau appears on a market stall.First you have to ask for it to be  cut into a useful size for soaking. Soak in cold water, with frequent changes, for 24 - 36 hours. If you have a stream running through your garden so much the better.Chance would be a fine thing. Boil the rinsed fish for 20 - 30 minutes until flakeable. Remove skin and bones and flake the flesh.
So now that you know much of what there is to know about salt cod, it's time you tried to cook with it. See how appetising it becomes once cooked.It is said that there are a thousand recipes for cooking it but there are just as many recipes for what you serve with it.Here I have found a recipe that makes the salt cod into beignets made with sweet potatoes, which I served up with a colourful red pepper tapenade

what a make over from lost cause to stunning appetizer

450g/1lb bacalhau/salt cod,soaked and rinsed
450g /1lb White fleshed sweet potatoes (use ordinary potatoes if not available)
1 bunch of spring onions, finely chopped
2 eggs
Flor de sal and freshly ground black pepper

2 red peppers
25g/8oz pitted black olives
1tbsp Dijon mustard
55g /2oz anchovy fillets
55g /2oz capers,drained 
150ml /1/4 pint extra virgin olive oil 

First make the tapenade.Skin your red peppers by having roasted them in a hot oven and then put them in a plastic bag to sweat until cool.Having removed the skin of the peppers,chop them up.Place all the ingredients, except the olive oil in a food processor and process together until you have a thick gravelly consistency.Drizzle in the oil slowly as you would when making mayonnaise and blend the tapenade until it holds a grainy,fairly coarse texture.You will have more than you need for this recipe so bottle it in a screw top jar and keep in the refrigerator.
Simmer your soaked cod in fresh water for ten minutes,then drain,remove any skin and bones,and flake with a fork.
Ensure your sweet potatoes are fresh or they will discolour.Peel and boil in salted water until soft-( they take about twice as long as as regular potatoes) then drain and mash them well.
Mix together the fish,mashed potatoes,spring onions and eggs in a food processor.Form the mixture into small bite sized fritters and deep fry in batches in a deep fat fryer until golden brown on both sides (about 6 minutes) serve piping hot with your home made tapenade.


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