In honor of our new virtual cooking class in Madrid offered with our friend and partner Mireia, we’re exploring one of our favorite Spanish tapas dishes: salt cod fritters.
Salt cod has a long history in Europe, including in the Mediterranean basin. It might seem odd to some – where this so much fresh seafood and fish to be harvested from the sea, why develop a culinary tradition around dried, salted cod hailing from Northern Europe and the North Atlantic?
But salt cod could be kept for long periods of time without spoiling. This made it ideal not only for fisherman and maritime explorers needing to feed themselves on long voyages, but also for transporting to markets far away.
Cod has for some thousand years been traditionally dried by the wind and sun, with the resulting dried fish known as “stockfish.” (Read this fascinating history of stockfish, salt cod, and their influence on the trans-Atlantic and Caribbean slave trade and economy.)
When salt was added to the process, it enabled the fish to be cured and dried more easily, and regardless of climate. In Spain, as in other Catholic countries, it became in particular a staple for Friday meals, when meat was to be avoided.
Today there are numerous recipes in Spanish, Italian, French, and particularly Portuguese cuisine that use salt cod. This one is a simple but delicious fried salt cod fritter.
It is important when making any salt cod dish to first soak and rinse the cod. It is an easy task – simply soak in cold water and change the water two or three times a day. But this step can take several days, so be sure to plan accordingly. It is not a step that you can rush, unless you want a tough and super-salty dish!
Buñuelos de Bacalao (Salt Cod Fritters)
Serves 4 people
Prep time: 25 minutes
Cook time: 4 minutes
Cook method: Fry
- 250 grams of salt cod
- 1 potato
- clove of garlic
- 1 Tbsp each of chopped parsley, chives, and scallions
- 3-4 threads of saffron
- 2 eggs
- 1/2 cup of water (reserved from soaking the salt cod)
1. Soak the salt cod for 24 to 48 hours, changing the water every 8 hours or so. Set some of the soaking water aside for later.
2. Once the salt cod is ready for use, blanch it quickly in boiling water, then allow it to cool completely. Remove the skin and bones, and dice the fish finely.
3. Boil the potato until tender, then peel and mash it. Allow it to cool.
4. Finely mince the chives, scallions, garlic, and parsley.
5. Gently roast the saffron threads on a skillet to release the aromas, then grind them with a mortar and pestle.
6. Add all the prepared ingredients together in a bowl and combine them. Add the egg, then stir in water little by little until a thick batter forms. Allow the batter to rest for 10 to 15 minutes.
7. Fry the fritters in batches by adding them a spoonful at a time to a pan of very hot oil. Do not overcrowd the pan. Remove them after about 3-5 minutes, once they are golden brown, and drain them on paper towels.
See more of our favorite recipes featuring this wonderful ingredient, including:
By Peg Kern
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