Bacalao - salt cod - is one of the great Spanish delights, adding flavor to bland ingredients such as potatoes. If you are unfamiliar with it, then this is a delightful way to try it out. Bite size fish cakes, dipped into rich, creamy, garlicky allioli, are irresistible as a tapas dish or appetizer.
For the allioli:
Soak the salt cod in cold water for at least 24 hours, changing the water two or three times. The cod should swell as it rehydrates. Sample a tiny piece. It should not taste unpleasantly salty when fully rehydrated. Drain well and pat dry with kitchen paper.
Cook the potatoes, unpeeled, in a pan of lightly salted boiling water for about 20 minutes, until tender. Drain. As soon as they are cool enough to handle, peel the potatoes, then mash with a fork or use a potato masher.
Pour the milk into a pan, add half the spring onions and bring to a simmer. Add the soaked cod and poach very gently for 10-15 minutes, or until it flakes easily. Remove the cod and flake it with a fork into a bowl, discarding bones and skin.
Add 4 tablespoons of mashed potato to the cod and beat them together with a wooden spoon. Work in the olive oil, then gradually add the remaining mashed potato. Beat in the remaining spring onions and the parsley.
Season with lemon juice and pepper to taste - the mixture may also need a little salt but taste it before adding any. Add one egg to the mixture and beat it until thoroughly combined, then chill until firm.
Shape the chilled fish mixture into 12-18 balls, then gently flatten into small round cakes. Coat each one in flour, then dip in the remaining beaten egg and coat with dried breadcrumbs. Chill until ready to fry.
Meanwhile, make the allioli. Place the garlic and a good pinch of salt in a mortar and pound to a paste with a pestle. Using a small whisk or a wooden spoon, gradually work in the egg yolks.
Beat in about half the olive oil, a drop at a time. When the sauce is as thick as soft butter, beat in 1-2 tablespoons lemon juice. Continue adding oil until the allioli is very thick. Season to taste, adding more lemon juice if you wish.
Heat about 3/4 inch oil in a large, heavy frying pan. Add the fritters and cook over a medium-high heat for about 4 minutes. Turn them over and cook for a further 4 minutes on the other side, until crisp and golden. Drain on kitchen paper, then serve with the allioli, lemon wedges and salad leaves.
This is the very best bacalao from Spain: the top cut of the cod, the solomillo.
Spanish fishermen catch these fish in the traditional manner using their own boats. The freshly caught fish is immediately hand-cleaned and packed in sea salt. This method has been used by these fishermen for centuries. The result is a firmer fish that is flakier when cooked.
When you see the characteristic spots and stripes on the skin you will recognize that these gourmet pieces of bacalao are authentic, and not just a cod look-alike. The skin is retained so that you will experience the delicate flavor at its best.
The natural fish with its skin on is essential for several dishes, such as bacalao al pil pil (dried cod in a creamy garlic sauce), where the gelatinous layer between the skin and the flesh combine with olive oil to make a magnificent sauce.
The thin "solomillo" filets will grow to about a pound when soaked. Place the fillets in the refrigerator in a bath of cold water for 48 hours. Submerge with the skin side up, changing the water about every 6-8 hours. After soaking, the fish should be about 3 cm thick. You cannot oversoak them.
Unió Extra Virgin Olive Oil is made solely from the juice of cold pressed Arbequina olives. They are grown deep in the rugged Pyrenees near the French border, in Catalunya This is a variety of olives gaining in popularity in both the United States and the general population of Spain, for that matter. The olives are tiny and sweet producing a delightfully fruity light flavor, which especially complements green garden salads and light cooking. You can savor its wonderful buttery flavor by dipping a piece of crusty bread.
The economical tin is a practical way to store your oil. Since it is metal, and not glass, it protects the oil from sunlight thereby protecting its delicate flavor and extending the product's shelf life for several months. There is a technical difference between this oil and the bottled Unió oil, which is designated D. O. Siurana