Griddled Cod with Oven Braised Potatoes

I’m surprised I don’t post more cod recipes, considering how much of it we eat. Typically here it’s salt cod, but sometimes we can now get hold of fresh too. Fish Lady surprised me yesterday with some beautiful (and huge) fillets of cod. Perfect for lunch in the garden.

Bacalao a la Plancha (2)

Often cod or bacalao is served over patatas a lo pobre here (slowly braised in olive oil) but it was too hot to stand over a pan of hot oil and my waistline, I knew, would thank me for cooking the potatoes another way. The oven was on as I was baking bread, wisely I was keeping cool outside. I decided to cook the potatoes in the bottom of the hot oven and then to cook the cod in my griddle pan at the last minute.

Ingredients (no measurements here, you know how much you can eat!)

  • Cod Fillet cut into portion and lightly oiled and salted on both sides
  • Potatoes cut in half then into thick half circles
  • A large onion quartered and cut into thick slices
  • About 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • A cup of stock (I used chicken but you can use vegetable or water)
  • Half a sliced red pepper (or use some slices of tinned roasted peppers)
  • Seasoning

Mix the potatoes, peppers and onions with the oil and season. Put into a deep ovenproof dish, pour over the stock and cover tightly with foil (or a lid). Cook on high for about 40 minutes and then for 20 minutes with the foil removed.

10 minutes before the potatoes are ready, heat a griddle pan until smoking hot and then cook the cod filler starting with the skin side down. A couple of minutes on each side is probably fine, depending on how thick they are.

Bacalao a la Plancha (7)

Serve the cod on top of the potatoes with some fresh lemon.  I also had a bowl of home made tomato sauce which we spooned over the top. Filling but not too heavy, and only a few minutes spent in the hot kitchen….perfect!

Pimientos del Piquillo Rellenos – Stuffed “Piquillo” Peppers

As I was mostly quite a good girl last year, Secret Santa gave me a beautiful cookery book packed full of delicous Tapas recipes. Thanks Giovanna at BlueJellyBeans!

After having a good old read of it, I decided that the first recipe I wanted to make from it was one that I often order in bars or restaurants but had never made at home.  The stuffed piquillo peppers (sweet, red and shaped like a little beak which gives them their name) are sold here in tins or jars. If you can´t get hold of them, I won´t tell anyone if you adapt with full sized peppers or perhaps the tips of some long sweet peppers.  You´ll need to roast and peel them first though.

I adapted the recipe a little to use up some salt cod (bacalao) that I had left, but the filling is up to you.  It could be cream cheese, mashed potato, tuna, vegetables, béchamel sauce….let your imagination go wild!

Ingredients to serve 2 as a starter

  • 4 pimientos del piquillo
  • Half a cup of mashed potato plus half a cup of cooked, flaked bacalao (or a cup of your preferred filling)
  • A tablespoon of chopped parsley
  • Black pepper (no salt with bacalao as it is already very salty)

For the sauce – half a cup of tomato conserva, 2 tablespoons of single cream, 1 tablespoon of tomato purée blended together with an immersion blender and seasoned to taste

Mix the potato, fish and herbs together and season with pepper.  Carefully fill the peppers using a small teaspoon.  Put them into a small frying pan and cover with a lid.  Warm through on a very low heat, turning them over after about 2 minutes.  I didn´t use oil but if your pan is not non stick, then use a very small amount. Now pour the sauce over and warm through very gently.

Place the peppers on your serving plate and cover with the creamy, tomatoey sauce.  Gorgeous, tasty and really rather cheffy looking!

Braised Salt Cod with Potatoes and Broad Beans/Bacalao con Papas y Habas

"Poor Man´s" Bacalao

Many years ago, in most Mediterranean countries, salt cod (or Bacalao as it´s called here) was poor man´s food.  Whole cod was salted, then dried in the sun to be stored and used when fresh fish was scarce.  Nowadays, it´s become rather a luxury item, in the same way that offal and bizarre cuts of meat have become trendy around the world.

Fortunately for us, Portugal is only about 4 hours´ drive away, so we get to have a few breaks there every so often throughout the year.  Also fortunate for us is the fact that the Portuguese consume huge amounts of Bacalao and sell it at greatly reduced prices.  The supermarkets there will sell you anything from small flakes of cod to flavour soups and stews, to entire cod which they can chop up into portions with special electric saws.  Before it´s rehydrated, the salt cod is tough but bendy, and it would be virtually impossible to cut it up at home. 

On our last visit we stocked up, as it can be frozen, and have enjoyed many meals with our “Souvenir of Portugal”.  Sadly we´re coming to the end of the supply, but on the plus side, this means we´ll have to plan another little break over there.

When you´re anticipating eating salt cod, you have to plan ahead.  De salting it can take anything from 2 to 5 days, depending on the thickness of the fillets you have.  Of course, you can also use fresh cod, in which case you can just go straight ahead and cook.

Put your fillets in a container which will allow them to be completely covered in water.  If it´s hot, put the container in the fridge, but it´s not necessary if the weather is cooler.  Try to change the water at least 3 times a day and test the cod by holding it up to your lips.  Then lick your lips!  You´ll know when it´s ready when it has lost that strong salty taste, although it will always retain a small trace of it. Just be warned, dried salt cod doesn´t smell too great.  Overcome any revulsion you may feel, the finished dish won´t taste anything like it smells right now!

There are many, many ways of preparing salt cod – deep friend in batter, roasted, grilled, poached in sauce.  This is a simple recipe which, once the cod has been desalted, is relatively quick and easy to prepare.

For 2 people you´ll need

  • 2 large salt cod fillets, desalted
  • 2 large potatoes roughly chopped and boiled for 5 minutes
  • A cup of broad beans (use the pods too if they´re  tender) chopped and blanched for a minute or two
  • An onion finely sliced
  • 2 cloves of garlic finely sliced
  • About 3 tablespoons of olive oil
  • Black pepper
  • A lemon

If you´re lucky enough to have a terracotta cooking pot, do use this as it seems to add something to the flavour.  If not, don´t worry, a deep frying pan will work just as well.

Put the oil, garlic, onions, potatoes and beans into the frying pan on a very low heat.  You will now slowly braise these in the olive oil until all the vegetables are tender.  You don´t want to brown them, so keep the heat low and half cover with a lid or some foil.  Stir occasionally to get them all covered in your lovely olive oil. Incidentally, this style of cooking potatoes is known in Spain as “a lo pobre” or poor man´s style. Usually they´re done with strips of green peppers though, and not broad beans.

Once the vegetables are ready, lay your cod fillets on top, skin side up.  Cook them gently for about 3 or 4 minutes (without moving or prodding them) or until the underside is no longer opaque.

Flip the fillets over, they´ll now only need a minute or two to finish cooking.

Remove from the heat and serve with plenty of lemon to squeeze over.  I also like an extra drizzle of “raw” olive oil, but if you´re watching the waistline (as I really should be doing) then leave this out.  You probably won´t need to add any salt, but taste it first and decide for yourself. ¡Buen Provecho!