Bakalar (Salted Cod) Fritters

This is one recipe that definitely falls into the labour-of-love basket. You need to start soaking it two days before you plan on cooking it, there are quite a few steps involved in preparing it, and you need some serious muscle in stirring the batter. So why bother making it? Because it’s so incredibly delicious, surprisingly inexpensive, and for a special occasion it’s a better-than-great nibble. I guarantee it will impress everyone. Even the sworn seafood-haters.

Make sure you use salted cod rather than dried or smoked. I buy the large whole salted cod from the fish markets, then cut it down the middle length-wise. I only use half the cod for this recipe, you should find it gives you about a kilo. This will make about thirty to forty fritters. Don’t think that’s too much, with drinks and other nibbles it will only take about six to eight adults to make short work of them.

You can prepare up to the end of step four in advance, then just deep fry them when you’re ready to serve.

what you need

  • 1 kg salted cod (bacalao or bakalar), cut into three pieces
  • 4 to 5 large potatoes, peeled and chopped into large slices
  • 200 ml water
  • 100 ml olive oil
  • 4 heaped tablespoons plain flour
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced or grated
  • a handful of fresh Italian parsley, finely chopped
  • black pepper
  • oil for deep frying, approx 4 litres
  • To serve: aioli and lemon wedges

what to do

1. Begin two days in advance by soaking the cod in cold water, flesh side down. Change the water four times in the first twenty-four hours, then a few times the next day.

2. To begin preparing the fritters, first you need to poach the cod. Change the water one last time, and bring it to the boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook gently for about ten minutes. Remove using a large slotted spoon (keep the cooking water) and put the cod pieces on a plate. Allow it to cool, and when it’s cool enough to handle flake the flesh, discarding any bones and skin. Set aside.

2. Using the same cooking water, turn the heat up to high and cook the potatoes until they are soft. When they’re done strain them, and mash them just like for mashed potatoes (though with nothing else added, e.g. butter, milk, etc). Set aside.

3. In a large pan (I use the same pot I cook the cod and potatoes in), heat the water and oil. Add the flour and whisk until smooth. Remove from the heat and add the eggs one at a time, stirring well with a wooden spoon to combine. Add the flaked cod and the mashed potato, stirring well to combine, then add the garlic and parsley and some freshly cracked pepper. Stir through.

4. Now for the muscle. Keep beating the mixture over a medium heat until it thickens. It will take a good ten minutes or so. It’s ready when it resembles mashed potato, or when the wooden spoon stands up in the middle. Firmer is better. If your arms are sore and you need a break, you can now let it sit until you’re ready to cook it.

5. Heat about 4 litres of light or vegetable oil in a deep fat fryer until it reaches the maximum heat, usually about 190 to 200 C. When the oil is ready drop heaped tablespoons into the oil. Cook in small batches, probably about four to six at a time depending on the size of your basket. Cook for about four or five minutes a batch, shaking the basket a couple of times, until they are golden. Drain on a rack over some paper towel while you make the rest of the fritters. Serve with aioli (garlic mayonnaise) and a squeeze of lemon.

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