Traditionally, salt cod was used for this Southern French dish, requiring up to 48 hours soaking and then very gentle simmering for 10–15 minutes. A very large, thick piece of fresh cod would also be very good. The version of aïoli given here requires no eggs. It should be thick and glossy, with a marvellous flavour.
Prepare the vegetables as appropriate. The potatoes and artichokes should be boiled or steamed until tender, and allowed to cool. The beans, peas or mangetout, cauliflower and broccoli should be steamed or boiled for just a few minutes to retain their crispness and colour. The rest of the vegetables are used raw. Arrange the vegetables either on one large serving platter or on individual plates, leaving enough room for the fish and the aioli.
Season the fish lightly all over. Oil a large piece of foil or greaseproof paper, and wrap the fish in it carefully. Put the parcel on a baking sheet and cook in a preheated oven at 190°C / 375°F / Mark 5 for 15–20 minutes. Let the fish cool in the parcel to retain all the juices. Unwrap and arrange the fish, in fairly large pieces, on the plate with the vegetables.
To make the aioli, peel, deseed and chop the tomato, and place in a sieve. Sprinkle with half the salt and leave to drain for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare the garlic by peeling and roughly chopping, then placing in a mortar with the remaining salt and pounding to a paste. This takes time and patience. Add the drained tomato, and work into the garlic so that the two are well blended. Add about ½ teaspoon black pepper. Then, working in a smooth clockwise motion, blend in the oil, drop by drop to begin with, and then in a thick stream as the mixture begins to emulsify and thicken. If the mixture separates, it will still taste good, even if it doesn’t look quite so impressive served as a dip with the fish and vegetables.
© 1995 Frances Bissell. All rights reserved.