When Vanessa and I were working in Bodega de Pepe in Biescas, Aragón, we made ajoarriero every day. It’s a blend of garlic, salt cod and potatoes made into a rich, rustic wet dish, which is served cold. We’d send it to the bartenders in a big terracotta cazuela and they would spoon it over freshly toasted crusty bread and serve it with a glass of garnacha (grenache) from Somontano.
The name ajoarriero literally means ‘carrier’s garlic‘, but is more widely known as ‘mule driver’s garlic’, and is also the name of this recipe. It derives from a time when the wealth of Spain was transported across the mountains and valleys on the backs of donkeys. Wool, olives, cheese and clothing were moved from maker to buyer on mules, lead by equally obstinate mule drivers. At the end of a long day, while the animals fed on pasture, their masters would cook a meal made from garlic, salt cod and potatoes, thickened with a few locally garnered eggs.
At MoVida we stuff this mix into piquillo peppers and deep-fry them, but you can serve this as tapas on a thin slice of toasted sourdough bread.
Remove the skin from the salt cod and separate the flesh from the bones. Reserve the skin and bones for making stock and finely shred the salt cod flesh with your fingers.
Slice the potatoes into
Cook the cod and potato over high heat for 5–10 minutes, or until bubbles appear. Reduce the heat to low and confit for 25–30 minutes until cooked and tender (see Notes). When the potato becomes soft enough, use the back of a wooden spoon to crush the potato and fish together into small pieces.
Drain the cod and potato mixture in a chinois or fine sieve and set aside for 20 minutes. The oil can be strained and used another three or four times to confit other dishes in this book.
Purée the peppers and garlic in a blender for 30 seconds. Crack the eggs into the blender and purée once more for 30 seconds to combine.
Return the cod and potato mixture to the wok, pour over the pepper and egg mixture, add the parsley and a pinch of salt and stir through. Cook over low heat using two wooden spoons, stirring and mashing the mixture. Beat the mix like you would beat a drum to break up the potatoes and make the mixture as smooth as possible. Continue cooking for 10–15 minutes until the mixture is thick and creamy. Season to taste.
Note that the dish will be served at room temperature, so it should taste a little bit saltier when warm. Allow to cool then refrigerate for up to 2 days until ready to use. Serve in a bowl with thinly sliced and toasted sourdough bread, allowing your guests to spread the ajoarriero over the toast themselves.
© 2007 All rights reserved. Published by Murdoch Books.