Red and white baccalá

Red and white baccalá

Bakalar na bijelo i na crveno

By
From
Dalmatia
Serves
4

It is traditional in European Catholic countries to have baccalá while fasting during Lent. It’s also usually eaten on Fridays, especially on Good Friday and Christmas Eve. It is regarded as a clean food for the soul by the Catholic clergy. There are hundreds of recipes for baccalá throughout Spain, Portugal, France, Italy and Croatia.

For my family, Christmas Eve is unimaginable without baccalá on the table – its smell permeates through the house announcing that a feast is about to begin.

Baccalá is sourced from Norway and Portugal, as there is no baccalá in the Mediterranean. My family prefer air-dried (unsalted) Norwegian cod, which is superior in quality and price. Salted Portuguese cod is also good and a lot cheaper. In Croatia, the following two recipes are the most popular. Serve it at the beginning of a meal with toasted bread.

Red baccalá

Ingredients

Quantity Ingredient
400to baccalá
1 brown onion, thinly sliced
1/2 garlic bulb, peeled and chopped
4 tomatoes, crushed
100ml milk
100ml extra virgin olive oil
1kg waxy potatoes, peeled and sliced 1 cm thick, such as desiree, sebago or nicola
1/2 bucket fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
1 teaspoon honey

Method

  1. Soak the baccalá in cold water for 3 days, changing the water every day, then drain.
  2. Clean the baccalá from the bones (you can leave the skin on) and cut it into small pieces, approximately 3 cm.
  3. In a food processor, blend the onion, garlic and tomato until you have a smooth paste.
  4. Put the paste, baccalá, milk, olive oil and enough water just to cover the ingredients in a saucepan over medium heat. Season well and cook for 20–30 minutes. Add the potato and a little water if necessary and cook for another 30 minutes, shaking the pot – but try not to break up the baccalá too much.
  5. When it’s a nice and creamy consistency, sprinkle with parsley and serve. I like to add a teaspoon of honey to round the flavour and give a better aroma to the baccalá.

White baccalá

Ingredients

Quantity Ingredient
400to baccalá
1kg waxy potatoes, peeled and roughly chopped, such as desiree, sebago or nicola,
1 garlic bulb, cloves separated and peeled
100ml milk
250ml extra virgin olive oil
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
1/2 bunch fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped

Method

  1. Soak the baccalá in cold water for 3 days, changing the water every day, then drain.
  2. Cook the soaked baccalá in salted water until it softens and the skin starts to break up, about 30 minutes. Take the fish out of the water (reserving the water) and pick the meat from the skin and bones.
  3. Cook the potato in the water in which you cooked the baccalá, until the potato is soft and starts to break up. Strain the potato but reserve the cooking water.
  4. Cook the garlic in the milk over medium heat for about 10–15 minutes. Strain and reserve the milk.
  5. Combine the baccalá, potato and garlic in a bowl. Mash with a metal potato masher, slowly adding the extra-virgin olive oil. Add a little of the reserved garlic-infused milk and a little of the potato cooking water if necessary, to work the mixture into a creamy paste. Season with salt and pepper, add the parsley, if using, and serve.
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