In regions that are a long way from the coast, like lovely Umbria, stockfish often crops up on the menu as a tasty and cheap standby. True stoccafissa is a whole dried cod, in its natural shape. It’s very leathery and needs beating to break down the fibres, then soaking for 36–48 hours in several changes of water. It’s a medieval way of preserving that was safe in summer heat. Baccalá, which is cod opened flat, salted and dried, is easier to buy and slightly quicker to prepare. In Perugia they cook it like this, simply dipped in batter and deep fried in olive oil, then serve it with lemon segments for squeezing over.
Wash and skin the fish and remove any bones. Cut the fish into neat chunks.
Mix the egg with the flour and enough milk to make a thickish batter. Heat the olive oil in a deep pan. Dip the fish in the batter and then fry until crisp and golden. Drain carefully on kitchen paper, then serve piping hot with the lemon segments.
© 1995 Valentina Harris. All rights reserved.