Parpuchas – Salt Cod Fritters

Salt cod is a typical Lenten Food in Spain. Whilst the country is not considered as strictly Roman Catholic as it once was, some traditions still remain.

This week is Holy Week, most towns and villages as well as the major cities join in the commemoration with what some might consider quite excessive displays of idolatory. I admit it´s not for me, and I find the penitents who carry the statues around dressed in outfits many of us associate with the Klu Klux Klan  quite disturbing, but I respect the traditions and am happy to join in the with eating and drinking.

Holy Week Procession in Ubeda April 2011
Barefoot Penitent

Parpuchas are known more widely as Tortitas de Bacalao, but they are a very typical dish of Andalucía.  This name may well just be specific to this area.

They are easy to make and if you don´t have de-salted salt cod, fresh cod or any other firm fish would still give you some tasty fritters.  Here they are typically served with Miel de Caña, or Molasses, in the same way as Berenjenas Fritas (Fried Aubergines),but if you prefer lemon…well, I won´t tell anyone!

To make about 15 large fritters or 20 smaller ones

  • 200g salt cod, shredded into small flakes
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 cup of milk
  • 1 teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 cup of flour (approx)
  • 2 large tablespoons of finely chopped parsley
  • 1 finely chopped or crushed clove of garlic
  • Salt to taste if you are not using salt cod
  • Oil for deep frying

Add the milk, bicarbonate, parsley, garlic and fish to the beaten eggs and then gradually add the flour until you have a thick batter.  It needs to be about the texture of thick lumpy custard (not that any of you, I am sure, have ever made lumpy custard!).

Heat the oil until a cube of stale bread turns brown quickly when dropped in and then drop spoonfuls of batter into the oil. I used a tablespoon and it gave me rather large parpuchas – I´d recommend using about half a tablespoon full as they will puff up slightly. When they are brown on the bottom (and they will float to the top), flip them over and cook on the other side. They will not be in the oil for long.

Remove with a slotted spoon, drain and sit them on kitchen paper for a few moments and serve hot, drizzled with Miel de Caña (to be typical) but also good with  lemon or tartare sauce. If you make too many, they are still very tasty cold as they retain their texture.

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84 thoughts on “Parpuchas – Salt Cod Fritters

  1. Well just tick my boxes why don’t you! I love trying different forms of cooking fish, and my interest is certainly piqued as it’s served with “Miel de Caña or Molasses”. I need to try this – another recipe bookmarked!
    and yes they always remind me of the KKK, unfortunate to say the least!

    1. Laughing at “tick my boxes why don´t you!” It´s a nice way to cook something which is now fairly expensive and make it go a long-ish way! Very tasty and more-ish too 🙂

      1. In the covered market the salt cod stalls normally have big sinks full of soaking bacalao in various stages of readiness.

    1. Yes, pre soak – sometimes it only takes 24 hours but more often at least 48. You can tell when it´s ready by touching it to your lips and then licking your lips. If it´s still too salty, change the water another time! You have so much amazing Bacalao in Portugal (we bought a load back to Spain from a supermarket called Pingu (?) something) and you can also buy is desalted and ready to use.

      1. Pingo Doce.
        When we first came here I could not stand Bacalhau as it was far too salty for me. I think the presoaked version is Ribaleves and you buy it frozen. I really must try again as I never used to like the taste of Chouriço now I eat it all the time 🙂 Good tip about touching the salt cod to your lips

  2. I would love to see the procession at least once in my time. I agree that their outfits are similar to KKK and that organization leaves a nasty taste in many people’s mouths. But from reading your recipe, sounds like you have a cure for this. Are there any leftovers–I actually prefer my food cold.

    1. The processions are actually pretty amazing and quite emotional. I was bought up a Catholic, but in the UK, where we tend to be a bit more understated…maybe that´s why I struggle a bit with all the wealth on display. It is a fantastic experience though and I can recommend it. In August in London there is an Italian Catholic Church (St Peter´s) and they do something similar with plenty of partying too – near Islington I think, you should find out about it! Anyway, I am glad I have found a fellow appreciater of cold food. I confess to have enjoyed many cold take aways for breakfast in London, my dirty secret!

      1. Thanks for the August event info. I’ll have to check it out! And partying…I’m pretty sure I can handle that 🙂 I drive people crazy since when we are in a restaurant I like to wait until my food cools off almost completely. Good thing my better half is a very slow and methodical eater. Oh so slow! I won’t share your dirty secret.

      2. I wish! Though the butcher is cheaper than the Boqueria and you can have a little prayer in the church at the same time as buying osso buco and napoli suasages 😉

  3. Hi T, Great receipe and photos. tfs. I have a receipe of a dish using salt cod which I picked up in Extremadura. I will let you have it so that you can give it a go.
    Regards Florence x

  4. You have me salivating, Tanya. Baccala fritters!!!! I am going to make this for Zia when I visit her next time. I seriously doubt if she or anyone in my family would allow me to soak baccala and use it for fritters. I’ll have to use fresh cod, but, that’s OK! She is going to love it! We usually go out for fish on Friday nights. Forget that. We’ll stay home but dine in Spain, just the same!

  5. Oh how I love the picture of the penitents and the homage to Mary – well, it looks like Mary. Must be my Catholic schooling that finds it all so comforting. The fish looks fantastic! the bicarbonate of soda must really make the batter light. I shall try it!

    1. Yes, that´s Mary. Each different church has its own special statue – sometimes Mary, other times Christ or a patron Saint. I too was bought up Catholic and it is quite stirring to watch. The fritters are super light and puffy and don´t absorb much oil – very nice indeed!

  6. I love breaded and fried fish, so much. Especially when I go to Málaga. It’s that time of fried fish year again. 🙂 🙂 🙂

    Are you making any dulces típicos this year? My mother-in-law and sister-in-law keep trying to teach me, but something (seriously, not on purpose!) always seems to come up.

  7. Hmmmm….thanks for this recipe, Tanya. I’ve been thinking of what to make for the rest of the week without meat especially on Good Friday. This fits the bill. I should now ask the Mr. to buy the salted cod so that I can have it soaked in water tomorrow. 😉

  8. It’s very windy here today and I can’t help thinking how much havoc it would cause the penitents. 😀

    The Parpuchas look amazing!

      1. I’m a Wiccan and sometimes we use witches’ hats (those conical hats with the wide brims). If the wind doesn’t give us a break, it gets tricky for us too because there are procedures for letting someone in and out of a ritual circle. So, even if my hat lands right behind me, I might not be allowed to pick it up without ritually exiting the circle.

  9. I love cod fritters…they are very popular here in New England. Yours sound like they would be nice and light the way they puff up.

    1. I suppose the concept is a bit odd but it was a way for people to preserve fish to eat it either if they lived far from the sea or to keep it available year round!

  10. Tanya I love the sounds of this recipe. Fritters are comfort to be sure, and I’ll be ready for them after 9 mad and lovely days away. I like Nick’s suggestion for the garlic aïoli and yours for lemon and think I’ll do them both! Thanks for another lovely recipe to add to my box! xo 🙂

  11. Those fritters look amazing!

    I was talking to Amaia about bacalao in Saturday – she says she gets huge pieces from Ridley Road Market. I was surprised to hear that it comes from Iceland and Amaia thinks that most bacalao in Spain comes from there too! Something I need to investigate more…

    1. I think she may be right – I know a lot of the Portuguese cod comes from there. Maybe some comes from the Atlantic, not sure but I know it likes cold water … brrrrr!

      1. But what surprised me it the fact that they salt the cod in Iceland – I always assumed most of it was done in Spain.

  12. Ooh, gotta try these. They look fab. Have always steered clear of buying salt cod up till now…useful tips above on soaking the cod and testing the water for saltiness… Thanks!

  13. I’m wondering about halibut? I think that’s a firm enough fish.. my kids would love this one! (I agree.. they do look a bit disturbing in that get-up!) xo Smidge

    1. That would be good as you could flake it easily in its raw state…mmm, those hats, I know they don´t mean what we think they mean but they are rather sinister I find.

  14. Yikes! The Penitents DO look like the Ku Klux Klan, except for the green of the hood…it kinda makes me shiver. But your pretty and delicious sounding fritters make me feel all warm and fuzzy again!

  15. This looks so delicious! I love a good fritter especially when it’s fish. Chica, I love hearing about all the wonderful traditions of your country. So facinating, even if the outfits look scary. 🙂

  16. Is salt cod the stuff they sell here in giant baskets? Huge great flanks of hard, dry fish, covered in salt? I remember having this conversation with someone before and being surprised because I was told that whatever it *was*, wasn’t what I had thought. I’ve never tried it… it looks complicated, so it’s nice to have some recipe ideas for the day when one day I pluck up some courage to get some 😀 Love the look of the crispy little fritters 🙂

    1. That´s the stuff – it really doesn´t look good and it smells pretty nasty too at this point. Look for a good sized fillet (otherwise you end up with lots of skin and bone) and not too rigid. It could take up to 3 days to desalt but will be worth it!

  17. Love, love, love salt cod fritters. Can’t remember what they’re called en français (too late in the evening and too many miles away!) but have enjoyed them so at many markets in the south of France. Glad to know they’re going strong in Spain as well, with or without bare feet and KKK-looking outfits!

  18. Mmmm they look lovely with the miel de cana! I’m really hoping it doesn’t rain this year for the processions, I want to get out and take some photos but the forecast isn’t good is it!!
    I always feel really sorry for Jesus up there on the crucifix in a loincloth in the pouring rain with the locals throwing tomatoes at him! It all adds to the drama I suppose! I’m with you those costumes with the pointy hats scare me, especially as underneath it is the bloke from accross the road!!

    1. You made me smile! Is the tomato thing something local to your village?! Had never heard ot this before 😉 Mmm thoise pointy hats..but then I suppose we are conditioned to think KKK as it´s what we knew before seeing the penitents in the same way that the Nazi Symbol is something (I think) good in Indonesia. It´s a funny old world. Fingers crossed for sunshine!

  19. While Puerto Rican codfish fritters are different from these (my mom’s Puerto Rican), they’re close enough that I have a suggestion you may like to try. For PR fritters, instead of pouring molasses on top, we use orange juice.

  20. You have given me such a good idea, I was wondering what to make today. I had, of course as usual, pasta in mind. But these are easy and fairly quick to make. I like to accompany them with a spicy tomato sauce. Mmmhhh!

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