Baccala with Red Onions

Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Serves


Appears in

Falling Cloudberries

By Tessa Kiros

Published 2004

  • About

This is one of my mother-in-law’s favourite ways of cooking baccala. She is an amazing cook: the grandmother cook that I always look for. This is a strong dish, I think, and not one that draws indifference. The cooked onions alone would go beautifully in an omelette, added in at the last moment onto the just setting egg, and are also great on bread even without the baccala. If you can, soak the salt cod under a dripping tap so the water is constantly changing. If you can’t manage that, soak it for two days, changing the water regularly. You can taste a small piece of the fish to see how salty it still is and take care when you add extra salt to the sauce. This dish also works really well with tuna (obviously without the soaking beforehand).


  • 1 kg (2 lb 4 oz) salt cod, soaked in cold water for 2 days
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra for shallow-frying
  • 4 red onions, halved and thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 250 ml (1 cup) white wine
  • 2× 400 g (14 oz) tins crushed tomatoes
  • 60 g (½ cup) plain (all-purpose) flour


Drain the fish well and cut into pieces about 4 × 6 cm (1½ × 2½ inches). Pat dry with kitchen paper. Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan and sauté the onions over medium heat for about 5 minutes until they begin to soften. Lower the heat and continue cooking for about 15 minutes, stirring often, until they are soft and richly coloured, then add the butter.

Add the garlic and, when it has coloured a bit, add the wine, season and continue cooking until the wine has evaporated. Add the tomato and a little more salt and pepper and simmer for about 5 minutes, until the tomato has softened a bit. The sauce shouldn’t be too dry or too runny but just loose. Add a few drops of water if it seems dry, or cook for a little longer if it seems too runny.

Meanwhile, heat the extra olive oil in a non-stick frying pan over medium heat. Put the flour on a plate and dust the pieces of fish. Fry the fish in batches for about 8 minutes, or until it is golden on both sides (let it form a bit of a crust before you turn it over as it can be a bit crumbly). Put the cooked pieces on a plate lined with kitchen paper to absorb the oil.

Arrange the fish, skin side down, on top of the tomato and onions in the frying pan and spoon a little of the sauce over it. Heat through for a few minutes, shaking the pan from side to side to distribute the sauce, rather than turning the fish over and breaking it up. Serve immediately with some bread and a side salad. Some people also like this dish at room temperature.