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Mule drivers’ style salt cod (Ajo arriero)


You'll need to begin this recipe 2 days ahead.

You'll need

400 gm salt cod fillet, soaked in water for 48 hours, water changed twice a day 2 large pontiac potatoes, thinly sliced and cut into postage stamp-sized squares 1 litre olive oil 4 Piquillo peppers (see note) 1 clove garlic, finely chopped 4 eggs 1 large handful of flat-leaf parsley, coarsely chopped To serve: thickly sliced sourdough, toasted

Method

  • 01
  • Remove skin from salt cod and shred the meat off the bones, discarding skin and bones. Combine cod and potatoes in a large non-stick wok (see note) and pour over olive oil to cover. Bring the temperature of the oil up to a simmer quickly over medium heat, then reduce heat to low (about 90C), so oil gently bubbles, and cook for 30 minutes or until tender. Using the back of two wooden spoons, mash fish and potato together into tiny pieces. Transfer to a strainer and stand for 20 minutes.
  • 02
  • Meanwhile, process peppers and garlic in a food processor, add eggs and combine.
  • 03
  • Return cod mixture to a clean wok, pour over pepper mixture and add parsley. Cook over low heat, stirring, using two wooden spoons to mash the mixture, then beat for 5-10 minutes or until thick and creamy and season to taste with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Serve warm, thickly spread over freshly toasted bread.

Note Piquillo peppers are small beak-shaped peppers (Piquillo meaning 'little beaks' in Spanish), from the northern Navarra region, which have been smoked, hand-peeled and bottled in their own juices. They are available from select delicatessens. You may need to use a heat diffuser under your wok so it doesn't get too hot.


"While working in a bar in the Aragonese Pyrenees, the mother of the owner, Aurora, explained there was only one way to make ajo arriero and that was her way. She'd start holding a potato in one hand, a stubby yet cruelly sharp knife in the other, then, in a blur of motion, would score the potato one way, then the other and, as she did, wafer thin slips of white potato flesh would fall into the pan. She would pass the knife and a potato to us and watch as we'd hack away, barely missing our thumbs. Once she'd left the kitchen we'd sneak out the old wooden chopping boards and thinly slice the potatoes in a slightly safer way.

Ajo arriero is a rich, chunky, wet dish served cold - like a tuna and egg salad with mayo, but made with salt cod and potato. The name comes from when the wealth of Spain was transported across the mountains and valleys on the donkey's back. Wool, olives, cheese and clothing were moved from maker to buyer on mules led by equally obstinate mule drivers. At the end of a long day, while the donkeys fed on pasture, their masters would cook a meal made from the durable salt cod and some potatoes that they carried with them thickened with a few locally garnered eggs. At MoVida we stuff this mix into Piquillo peppers and deep-fry them, but you can serve this as a tapa on a slice of toasted sourdough." - Frank Camorra, MoVida


At A Glance

  • Serves 4 people
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At A Glance

  • Serves 4 people

Featured in

Oct 2007

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