Good Friday Parpuchas – Salt Cod Fritters

Today, even though we are in England, we kept up a tradition from Big Man’s family in Andalucia and made Parpuchas. Light, fluffy fritters of salt cod, parsley and garlic. Traditionally served (as we did) with a drizzle or a dunk of Miel de Caña (Molasses). It sounds odd but I promise you, the combination of sweet and salty really does work. If you don’t have access to salt cod (which you’ll have to desalt) this works well with any other firm raw fish.

Parpuchas 007

I will post the recipe below, but if you’d like to read the original post from a couple of years back and to see some of the traditions of Holy Week in Spain, do check out the original.

Ingredients

  • 200g (desalted) 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, alioli or tartare sauce. If you make too many, they are still very tasty cold as they retain their texture.

All that remains for me to say before we move into the rest of the Easter weekend is a very Happy and Peaceful Easter, or Happy Passover if that is what you celebrate, or a Happy Few Days with your loved ones. Watch out for those chocolate bunnies…..

Sopa de Bacalao – Cod and Spinach Soup

If you do an internet search for a typical Spanish soup called Sopa de Bacalao, you’ll find many versions of a firm favourite. I don’t lay claim to my version being authentic, especially as it uses a very non Spanish ingredient – Ras El Hanout – but as the spice mix comes from North Africa and there are such very strong connections between Africa and Andalucía, I feel no one will be up in arms.

The ingredient list is short and simple, the preparation too. But the taste, oh the taste, your friends and family will think you’ve spent hours reducing stock to achieve the intensity of flavour.

Sopa de Bacalao (3)

Ingredients (to serve 2-4 as a main or starter)

  • 1 large cod fillet, skinned and cut into bite sized chunks (use either fresh cod or desalted salt cod)
  • 1 medium onion finely chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 4 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into bite sized chunks
  • About 2 cups of chopped fresh spinach
  • Salt
  • 1 teaspoon of Ras El Hanout
  • About 1.25l of either fish stock or water (if you use a cube to make your stock, I won’t tell!)
  • A little olive oil

Start by sweating the onion and garlic until softened then add the potatoes. Toss them around in the oil until they are all coated in oil then add the Ras El Hanout and mix in. Pour over the stock and cook until the potatoes are almost done.

Add the cod and cook for a minute or two until the fish is cooked. Taste and season if necessary and then add the spinach. Turn off the heat, cover with a lid and wait for the spinach to wilt before serving with plenty of fresh lemon to squeeze over.

Smoked Cod & Butterbean Stew

Lent is a time in Catholic countries of preparation for the celebration of Easter. Believer or not, it also means a few changes to diet in Andalucía with a reduction in meat heavy meals and a focus on vegetables, pulses and fish. A typical dish during this period is Potaje de Semana Santa, Holy Week Stew, which is typically made with chick peas (or a mix of chick peas and giant white beans) and salt cod. I was sure I had previously given you a recipe for this, but alas I have been remiss. Fortunately, Giovanna over at Blue Jellybeans, has done the honours, do check it out!

Smoked  Cod & Butterbean Stew (4)

As we’re still in the UK, and the weather has turned icy again, it was time to reinterpret this classic dish using ingredients available locally to me here.  We were pleased with the results and it’s definitely a dish that can be eaten any time of year, not just Lent.

The ingredient list is simple, but the slow cooking turns this into a beautifully flavoured dish.

Ingredients (to serve 4 as a main course)

  • 2 cups of dried butterbeans
  • 1 head of garlic
  • A bay leaf
  • 1 large fillet of fresh cod (I used smoked but unsmoked would also be good) flaked into chunks
  • 2 cups approx. of finely chopped fresh spinach or kale
  • A pinch of saffron (or half a teaspoon of turmeric)
  • 3 cloves (optional)

Start by soaking the beans in water with a pinch of bicarbonate of soda overnight. The next day drain them, cover well with water, add all the ingredients except the fish and spinach and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer gently for a couple of hours (or cook in a low heat in the oven for about 4 hous as I do) until the beans are really tender. Just before serving remove the garlic, bay leaf and cloves (if using), add the cod and spinach and cook on a medium heat. Stir a little to break up some of the beans and thicken the soup. Season with salt to taste.

Smoked  Cod & Butterbean Stew (1)

Serve with a drizzle of fresh olive oil.

If you want more Lenten recipes, take a look at Chgo John gorgeous Grilled Salted Cod recipe or my Parpuchas (Salt Cod Fritters) from last year.

PS. I have jsut come across a company that supplies (in the UK) some Spanish ingredients. Here’s the link (they haven’t paid me for this) but have just ordered the ingredients for Fabada Asturiana from them, so am hoping they’ll be good.

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.

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!

Ensalada Cateta – Country Salad

¡Ay que rico!

Before I start this quick post, I have to tell you that I´m having a giggle.  The word cateto or cateta translates perhaps more literally as “Peasant”, but not in an offensive way.  Before I started typing I just thought I´d do a quick translation check to see if there was another word I could use and all the on line translation tools, bizarrely come up with the word “leg”!  Not quite sure what is going on there…but I decided to call it Country Salad.

It´s another celebration of that most Andalucían of fruits, the orange.  Again, typically a poor person´s salad it was originally made with salt cod as it was cheap and you didn´t need to use much.  A few other bits of country produce like potatoes, peppers and olives, a good soak in olive oil and you were done.

Of course, nowadays you can get all sorts of glorified versions, but the one I´m giving you here is the one you´ll find in all my local bars and homes around here.  It´s served as tapas in bars, and as a light meal at home.  Of course, some people make their own little tweaks, and why shouldn´t they?  They might leave out the peppers and add tomatoes.  Some people like tomatoes or onions in it, others don´t.  And complete heathens, like me, sprinkle chopped fresh chili all over it to the amazement of their other halves….each to his own I say!

A delicious serving of “Leg” Salad!!

This is what you´ll need (approximately) per person as a light main dish servng size

  • 1 hard boiled egg, finely chopped
  • 2 medium potatoes (boiled in their skin) peeled then chopped into chunks
  • 1 small tin of tuna (I use tuna in brine and drain it, but use your favourite)
  • 1 roasted red pepper, chopped
  • 2 medium oranges (bitter if possible) peeled and cut into chunks
  • About 2 tablespoons of pitted olives sliced (or use ones with stones, your choice!)
  • Optional – chopped onion, chopped tomato, small flakes of salt cod (or use whatever you have available)
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Olive oil
  • White wine Vinegar (optional) but I like to use it

All you need to do it combine everything in a bowl, season and dress it and leave it for at least half an hour in the fridge so that the potatoes can soak up some of the lovely olive oil.

Good to serve at a party or buffet as it can be prepared ahead and does not suffer from being forgotten in the fridge for several hours.  Hope you enjoy it!

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!