FERDINAND MAGELLAN’S NAVIGATOR WAS A BASQUE CALLED JUAN SEBASTIÁN ELKANO, WHO FINISHED MAGELLAN’S VOYAGE AROUND THE WORLD AFTER MAGELLAN WAS KILLED IN THE PHILIPPINES. THERE’S A STATUE OF ELKANO IN GETARIA, OVERLOOKING BOTH THE PELOTA (BASQUE HANDBALL) COURT AND THE SEAFOOD RESTAURANT NAMED AFTER HIM. IT’S NOT SURPRISING THAT THE BASQUES COULD SAIL AROUND THE WORLD: THEY HAD ALREADY BEEN FISHING FOR COD IN THE ATLANTIC OCEAN SINCE BEFORE THE NORMAN INVASION OF ENGLAND AND HAD DEVELOPED A CURING INDUSTRY AND TRADE ROUTES AROUND THE MEDITERRANEAN BY THE 12TH CENTURY. AND PERHAPS FOR THIS REASON ALONE I CAN THANK THEM, BECAUSE DEEP-FRIED SALT COD IS AMAZING. THE SUCCULENT, TRANSLUCENT FLAKES OF FLESH ARE EMBRACED BY A THIN BATTER OF FLOUR, AND A SPRINKLING OF SALT ENHANCES THE JUICY SWEETNESS. THIS IS A RECIPE THAT EXTENDS THE FRIED SALT COD INTO A MEAL. AS SOON AS YOU HAVE A SAUCE YOU HAVE A MEAL BECAUSE BREAD WILL BE USED TO MOP UP THE JUICES, MAKING IT AN INEXPENSIVE WAY OF FEEDING A FAMILY.
Heat the olive oil in a large heavy-based saucepan over high heat. Add the onion and sauté for 5 minutes, or until browned. Reduce the heat to medium-high, then add the garlic, bay leaves and a pinch of salt and cook for 5 minutes.
Add the tinned tomatoes, reduce the heat to low-medium, then cover and cook for 20 minutes. Add
Drain the salt cod, then trim off the fins, skin, brown patches and bones. Cut the flesh into strips measuring about 2 ×
Fill a deep-fryer or large heavy-based saucepan one-third full of oil and heat to 1190°C (375°F) or until a cube of bread dropped in the oil browns in 10 seconds. Dust the cod pieces in the flour and deep-fry in small batches for 2 minutes, or until golden and crisp.
Warm the tomato purée over medium heat until heated through. Arrange the fried cod over the tomato purée, spoon a little of the sauce over the top, then scatter with the parsley and serve immediately.
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