Recipe: Bakalar

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Air-dried cod stew has become a traditional festive dish in Croatia. Photo / Getty Images
Air-dried cod stew has become a traditional festive dish in Croatia. Photo / Getty Images

I've always thought it strange that for a region which has so much great fresh fish, dried cod from Norway is considered a delicacy. Bakalar has become a traditional dish to eat on the meat-free day before Christmas.

Serves 4-6

• 300g air-dried cod (bakalar - available at Eurodell)
• 200ml olive oil
• 8 cloves garlic, finely chopped
• A big handful of parsley, finely chopped
• 1kg floury potatoes (eg Agria), peeled and sliced 5mm-thick
• Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. Soak the bakalar in a bucket of water for 24 hours, changing the water twice during that time. Cover the bucket with something heavy to keep out the smell.

2. The next day, drain the water and bash the fish with a mallet for a couple of minutes to soften. Place in a large pot and cover with cold water, bring to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes. Lift out the fish (reserving the cooking liquid) and pick off all the flesh, discarding the bones. Flake the flesh and put back into the pot with the reserved cooking liquid.

3. Add 100ml of the olive oil, half the garlic and parsley, the potatoes and, if it needs it, a bit more water so that everything's completely covered. Season to taste with salt and pepper, cover and bring back to a gentle boil. Simmer for about an hour or until the liquid is creamy. Remove from the heat.

4. Add the rest of the olive oil, garlic and parsley and check the seasoning. Put the lid back on the pot and, holding the pot and lid with a tea towel, shake vigorously until the mixture is emulsified and thick. Serve with crusty bread.

- Herald on Sunday

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