Salt cod is very popular in Spain. The combination of having large stocks of cod off the Atlantic coast and a Roman Catholic Church proclaiming as many as three meat-free days a week meant the Spaniards became adept at cooking this dried fish. I really don’t think of salt cod as being fish. It has been transformed so much by salting and drying that, in my mind, it has become an entirely different ingredient. It is earthy at the same time as being of the sea. It is preserved yet lively and although considered the food of the poor, it can also make a decadent meal. A large piece in a dish can be the star of the meal but smaller pieces blended through a dish become a deliciously smooth background flavour.
The smell of salt cod cooking always reminds me of Easter, when mum makes Roman salt cod. This is a juicy fillet of desalinated salt cod that has been dipped in egg batter and deep-fried until golden. It is sprinkled with a little salt and eaten with a very simple salad.
Dried salted cod fillets look like mummified bats. We trim off the ‘wings’ for stock and use the thick sweet flesh near the spine.
The recipes in this book require salt cod to be desalinated in the following manner.
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