Saturday, August 27, 2011

Brandade of salt cod

Elizabeth David, whose French Provincial Cooking was my principal guide in France, is discouraging on the subject of brandade of salt cod. "This is not really a dish to be made at home," she writes; amalgamating the fish, oil, and milk requires "great patience and considerable energy".

It is true that my first effort at brandade was a disaster. Then, I followed the advice of Richard Olney, who tells you to beat the flaked cod with olive oil over a high heat. I ended up with rubbery flakes of fried fish. The more common advice is to use a low heat.

This version worked better. The lemon juice and nutmeg come a recipe by Keith Floyd; but his quantities of olive oil and milk are excessive to the tune of about 300%.

400g salt cod (the salt cod I bought from my local shop came in a packet, which advised that the fish needed only four hours' soaking, in several changes of water)
2 cloves garlic, chopped and then crushed with the help of a tiny bit of salt
Olive oil - about 3tbsp
Milk - about 3tbsp
Juice of 1 lemon

Drain the pre-soaked cod, put it into a saucepan, cover with cold water, bring to a simmer over a medium heat, and turn the heat right down as soon as bubbles start to rise. Test the cod, which may tenderise rapidly. Remove it from the water as soon as it yields to the point of a knife. When it is cool enough to handle, pull it apart into flakes, removing any small bones.

Put the flaked cod into a small saucepan over the lowest flame. Add a little oil and milk, along with the crushed garlic, and mash it with a potato masher. Keep mashing and adding oil and milk, along with the lemon juice, until you have a substance with the consistency of mashed potato. Season it with nutmeg and plenty of black pepper.

I prepared my brandade, and warmed it later in a bain-marie before serving it with toast. It was delicious; but the fine strands of cod, perhaps as a result of having been warmed three times, were tough. I think that whizzing the flaked cod in a food processor rather than mashing it might work better.

No comments: