Posted in Mary Contini recipes on Wednesday, 25 November 2020
The pungent salty aroma of the baccalà hanging above the cheese counter mingles in my psyche with the spice of provolone, the allure of alba truffles and the high of freshly roasted coffee. The perfume of Valvona & Crolla as we prepare for the festivities ahead is timeless. All that is missing this year is the smell of cigarette smoke that the old, seasoned restaurateurs of the city used to draw on as they lingered gossiping and chatting while their orders were being assembled.
This year as well we miss the increasing expectation of the drama of a busy Christmas season but, Internet aside, the shop is full and bursting as we are hoping and praying that families stay close and well.
We used to sell 5 sacks of 10 kilos of baccalà, so important was the dried salted cod in the rituals of the Italian community... now we sell as much but cooked in the Caffè Bar... the recipe is straightforward, the flavours unique... just remember to soak the fish!!!!!
Salt Cod Baccalà
Traditionally eaten on La Vigilia di Natale – Christmas Eve – a day of fasting and abstinence.
(serves four people)
*300g baccalà (salt cod)
*3 tbsps extra virgin olive oil
*1 medium onion, peeled and finely chopped
*1 piece peperoncino (dried chilli)
*4-5 tinned plum tomatoes
*8 pitted prunes (semi-dried ones are juicier and don’t have to be soaked)
*some flat-leaf parsley
The baccalà has to be soaked in several changes of cold water over two days before cooking so make sure you start this in time. Once this is done, rinse the cod and check it with your fingers, removing any bones.
Leave the skin intact to stop the cod disintegrating as it cooks. Cut into five or six pieces.
Heat the extra virgin olive oil in a saucepan and gently sauté the onion and chilli slowly until the onion is soft and transparent. Add the tomatoes, squash them down, and gently cook for about 20 minutes.
Lay the cod pieces on top of the tomato sauce, add the prunes and, with the saucepan lid on, steam the fish through - it takes barely 15 minutes. Taste at the end of cooking. It shouldn’t need any salt, but add some chopped flat-leaf parsley.
Buy Baccala here and try yourself