It’s fascinating that an area so rich in seafoods, such as the Mediterranean, has a love affair with dried, salted cod, an import from the North Sea and northern European cuisines. But love it they do, and have done for centuries, no doubt traded for local goods. It would have been a good over-wintering source of protein. It seems to have gone out of favour in many local delicatessens, but can still be found around the place.
We served this at our recent Spring lunch – a Languedoc inspired lunch. As anticipated, it enticed a few aficionados out of the woodwork, and got a very good reception.
500g salt cod
200 ml good olive oil
200 ml milk, boiled then cooled
Salt cod, takes A LOT of rinsing to remove salt and soften it up. If you don’t have a fresh water stream handy, put it in a large plastic container with a lid and cover with water. Rinse and repeat, at least half a dozen times over 12-18 hours, holding it in the fridge. If it hasn’t softened up by then, keep going.
Poach in simmering water for 5-6 minutes, then drain.
Shred the cod, removing any bones, fins, hardened edges, etc. Mash the cod in a mortar and pestle or food processor (pulse it). Gradually add half the oil, then half the milk, mashing/pulsing as you go. Continue adding the oil/milk combo until the mixture is snow white, thick and shiny, and will take no more oil or milk. Season well, but be careful with the salt.
It can be served as is, or shaped into quenelles, and put under the grill for a few minutes. It will brown slightly, and the flavours will intensify. Serve with toast triangles and cornichons or a simple salad.