Words and recipe by Pete Begg
Tonight at 8pm the final episode of Jamie’s Comfort Food airs on Channel 4. For eight weeks he’s been taunting us with his ultimate recipes for dishes that make people happy the world over. But he’s saved an absolute classic to go out on – fish and chips. It’s an institution in the UK, eaten on pebbled beaches everywhere; Aussies flock to their coasts to get their hands on some; and even the ever-classy Italians love a bit of deep-fried white fish.
Jamie’s big tip for battered fish is to heavily salt your fillets to draw out the moisture. This makes it flaky and reduces the amount of steam that can ruin your crispy batter. “Salt cod” takes this idea to the extreme by dehydrating it with salt then rehydrating it a little before cooking.
Salt cod is a super delicious and very popular menu item in trattorias and pizzerias in Rome. It’s not always an easy ingredient to find though, and it’s quite a time-consuming thing to prepare. Rather than hydrate a piece of salt cod over a day by changing the water multiple times, I like to soak a piece of fresh cod in brine for a couple of hours instead – that way you get a nice gentle salt cod texture and flavour much more quickly.
Salt cod recipe
Deep-fried with artichokes and lemon
- 4 200g fillets of cod loin
- sea salt
- 4 violet artichokes, leaves tightly closed and firm to the touch
- 2 lemons
- 2L vegetable oil
- 100g 00 flour
- 100g rice flour plus extra for dusting
- half a teaspoon baking powder
- 1 egg yolk
- 300 ml Italian beer
Get yourself a container big enough to hold the fish plus about a litre and a half or water to cover. Pour in the water first, then stir in a tablespoon and a half of salt. Drop the cod in, make sure it’s submerged, and place in the fridge for a couple of hours.
Meanwhile, trim the outer leaves from the artichokes and cut the stalk to 4 cm long. Peel the stalk and the base of the artichoke with a speed peeler and rub with a cut lemon to stop it discolouring. Cut the artichoke in half vertically, right through the stalk. One half at a time, scoop out the hairy choke with the end of a teaspoon and discard. Cut each choke half into 4 or 5 wedges and place in a bowl of water with the rest of the juice of the lemon squeezed in.
Get two trays ready. Line one with a triple thick layer of kitchen paper and cover the other with a 1 cm layer of rice flour. Drain the artichokes and pat dry with kitchen paper, then roll in the rice flour. Drain the cod and gently pat dry with kitchen paper then turn over in the rice flour until evenly coated.
Fill a wide saucepan with the oil and place on a medium heat. Tip the flours and the baking powder in a mixing bowl with a pinch of salt. Add the egg yolk and 250ml of the beer and mix to a paste. To test whether or not the oil is hot enough for frying, add one of the floury artichokes and see if it floats on the top and sizzles. If it does, you’re in business. If the oil starts to smoke at any point, turn the heat down as it’s getting too hot.
Add the last bit of beer to the batter and then stir and dip a piece of cod in it. Lift out and let excess batter drip from it before laying it in the oil gently. When all four pieces of cod are in the oil, turn the heat up slightly to keep the temperature of the oil up.
Fry the cod for about 4 minutes until cooked through and the batter is crisp and golden brown on the outside. Carefully lift the cod out one piece at a time and drain on kitchen paper. Add the artichokes and fry for a couple of minutes until crispy. Drain on kitchen paper.
Serve the salt cod and crispy artichokes together, with lemon halves and cold beer.