It seems to me that in Australia, one of the staple Easter treats, are hot cross buns. In my family, it’s Bacalao a la Vizcaina. Every Easter, particularly, on Good Friday, this is the one dish, we all looked forward to having. Growing up, the idea was that on this particular Friday, we were required to fast the whole day and the one main meal we’d have, we’d have to abstain from meat. Bacalao, being the first meal we’d have for that day, was something we eagerly anticipated.
In my younger years, I always associated Lent and Holy Week as a season of sacrifice. Which is why we had to fast and abstain from meat on Fridays, say extra prayers and go to confession. I always had this notion that part of the sacrifice was having the Bacalao dish. Not because it wasn’t any good. In fact, I thought, it was so delicious, that the “grown-ups” (as we used to call the… uhmm… “grown ups” in the family) decided to serve it but only in very small quantities to torment us. Can you imagine, fasting the whole day and only having one small serving of this dish along with a slice of tortilla espanola? It was pure torture!
Now I think the only reason we had so little of it was because Bacalao was not that easy to come by in the Philippines – at least then. Luckily, Sydney has a few stores that stock up on salt cod and last Friday we all managed to have generous portions of this dish. Honestly, it was so enjoyable, I almost felt sinful for being able to eat so much!
If you’ve never tried cooking bacalao or salt cod before, I hope this is the first dish you try it with. Believe me, you will be hooked. The salt cod blends exceptionally well with the roasted red peppers. We usually serve it with potato omelette (tortilla espanola) or some buttered rice.
Today’s dish is brought to you by my very own Blog Monster. On Friday, I came home from walking the dogs and as soon as I stepped into the door I hear “Trissa, come and watch the masterchef!”…
I thought there were re-runs on TV.
It turns out, she was cooking the bacalao.
Recipe (serves 10 people) – adapted from Penelope Casas & the Blog Monster
- 1 kilo dried salt cod, boned (and skinned if you prefer)
- flour for dusting cod
- 1 kilo red peppers
- 60 ml olive oil
- 3 large onion, chopped
- 10 cloves of garlic, crushed
- 2 teaspoons flat leaf parsley, chopped
- 1 1/2 cups water
- 2 bay leaves
- 6 potatoes, finely sliced
- Cover the cod with cold water and soak for 2 days, changing the water at least 5 times.
- Over a direct flame, char the red peppers and then place them in a bowl and cover with cling film. This will make it easier to peel the peppers.
- After a few minutes, when the peppers are cool enough to handle, peel and deseed them. Next, cut the peppers into strips and set aside.
- Drain the cod, chop the cod into chunks and then dust with a little bit of flour and fry. Set aside when done.
- Heat the oil in a skillet and saute the onion, garlic and parsley until the onion is wilted. Using a food processor or blender, pass the onion mixture along with the peppers and blend until smooth. Add 1 1/2 cups water to the pepper mixture. Return this to the skillet with a bay leaf and salt and pepper to taste.
- Arrange the cod on top of the pepper mixture.
- Cover and cook over a low heat for 20 minutes.
- Cover and continue cooking over a low flame for about 20 minutes.
- Arrange the sliced potatoes around the cod and bake in a pre-heated over (160 c fan forced) until the potatoes are cooked, around 20 minutes.
- Garnish with chopped parsley.
*Note: If the cod starts to dry, add some water to the pepper mixture.
** If you are in Sydney, you can get Bacalao in Spanish or Italian Delis. Otherwise, try your fishmonger. I managed to find some as well at the Fish Markets.