Cucina Povera & Baccalà – The Fish Worth Its Weight in Salt
Chat to many a Nonna from Abruzzo about baccalà (salted cod) and she could refer to it as poor man’s meat. It’s seemingly unbelievable today when it sits on the crest of a tasty gourmet wave with the added flexibility that it can be cooked in so many ways.
It’s believed that Basque fishermen who brought the fish to Spain in the C15th encouraged its popularity across Mediterranean Europe as Spain’s influence grew with the Kingdom of the 2 Sicilies and the Papacy; that together with the fact that it helped get round the tax on Salt that was still collected in Italy as late as 1975.
Despite its tag of cucina povera, the poor deemed it worth swapping for their precious hens (a rare occurrence when their fine girls provided precious eggs for daily pasta). It has as such been integrated into feasts on so many of the religious celebrations in Abruzzo throughout the year as well as having its own famous sagra in Sant’Omero up in the province of Teramo. If you are a baccalà fan check out the Comune’s recipe book, Armonie di baccalà, with a 100 recipes devoted to the world’s favourite dried fish.
A lot of people are put off using baccalà, thinking it fiddly in preparation, but to us a simple soak in water for 2 days , changing the water twice daily is worth the effort every time!
- 1/2 Baccalà Fillet
- 3 Red Peppers
- 2 Cloves of Garlic
- Flat Leaf Parsley
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Soak your baccalà for 2 days changing the water at least twice daily. Be gentle with your baccalà as you change the water and refill your bowl. On your final rinse gently wipe it with a clean cloth and put it onto a wire rack
- Grill the peppers whole, remove the skin, stem and seeds and roughly chop. Mix with finely chopped garlic, parsley and a good glug of olive oil.[br]
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- Cut the fish into medium pieces and grill on a high heat (alternatively barbecue!) serve on the pepper and drizzle with olive oil..