Bakaliaro (Μπακαλιάρος) or salt cod, is hugely popular in Greek cuisine. None more so than on two days during Lent, the Annunciation on March 25th and then again on Palm Sunday. It also just happens to be one of Mr K's most favourite dishes, when it served batter-fried in crisp pieces with pungent, garlicky skordalia. You can find a recipe for this style of bakaliaro here.
While fried bakaliaro is really delicious, this traditional "cucina povera" fish can also been enjoyed in a variety of other ways. For our Palm Sunday celebrations this year, I decided to forgo the fried affair and instead opted to try a traditional Ionian preparation for the salt cod, called a bourdeto.
A bourdeto (Μπουρδέτο) is an Ionian style of cooking, most commonly associated with the Island of Corfu. It is said to hail from the Venetian word 'brodeto' meaning broth. In its most basic form, a bourdeto involves fish, slowly simmered in a fresh in tomato sauce with onion, garlic and spicy red pepper or chilli - cooked down until all the liquid is removed from the pot and you are left with a thick, aromatic sauce.
To make our Palm Sunday bakaliaro bourdeto, I was very generously given some Bukovo Chilli Flakes from the wonderful Gina at Homer St - my favourite online Greek food providore. The bukovo chilli flakes are AMAZING!
This beautiful spice hails from Northern Greece and is made from red horn peppers that have been traditionally smoked with birch wood. They are mildly spicy and sweet, and bring the most incredible smoky depth of flavour - perfect for the bourdeto. The chilli should come with a warning label though, they are are so good, I have a feeling that I might become slightly addicted to them!!
Bakaliaro Bourdeto (Μπακαλιαρος μπουρδέτο)
If you haven't had time to prepare the salt cod by soaking it for 24 hours, you can substitute it with fresh cod fillets.
1/2 kg of salt cod
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon of Bukovo Chilli Flakes
1/2 tablespoon of freshly ground black pepper
1 small bunch of fresh flat leaf parsely, finely chopped (plus some for garnish)
1 medium brown onion, sliced
1 head of fresh garlic, finely sliced
4 medium tomatoes, grated
1/2 kg potatoes, peeled and quartered
1/4 - 1/2 cup of water
1. You need to start this dish a minimum of 24 hours before. Remove any excess salt from the cod and place in a large bowl, cover with cold water, place in the fridge and soak for a minimum of 24 hours. It is best to change the soaking water at least 4 times during the 24 hours. When the cod is ready, remove the skin and large bones and cut into serving pieces. You can skip this process by using fresh cod fillets instead of the traditional salt cod.
2. For the bourdeto, use a large casserole style pot (that has a lid) and that can be used on the stove top. Place the pot on a medium heat and then add the oil. When the oil becomes hot, add the Bukovo Chilli Flakes and stir through the oil to release their sweet, smokey flavour. After a minute or two, add the sliced onion and cook until soft, then add the garlic and cook until soft. Make sure to keep stirring the garlic and onions, so that they don't catch the bottom of the pot - the only smokey flavour you want is from the divine chilli flakes.
3. Next, add the grated tomato flesh, the black pepper and parsley. Then add the pieces of potato. Pour in about 1/4 of the cup of water - or until the potatoes are just about covered. Simmer the potatoes, covered, for about 20 - 30 minutes. When the potatoes are starting to become tender, but not soft, add the pieces of cod on-top. Simmer very gently, with the pot slightly covered but with the lid ajar, for another 30 minutes until the fish is very tender and the sauce has thickened. Serve immediately, sprinkled with some finely chopped parsley and a little dusting of the Bukovo Chilli Flakes. You'll also need some good homestyle bread on hand to soak up the beautiful smokey, garlicky tomato sauce.