I used to buy the tastiest little baccala croquettes from a deli in Angel. They were always sat piled on the counter and no matter what I'd popped in for a couple had to be bought and they rarely made it through the couple of hundred metres I had to walk back to my flat. I could never quite work out what was in them though to recreate at home. They weren't coated in breadcrumbs (like the bechamel based croquettes in Spain), having a more batter like outside and whilst there seemed to be some potato inside they weren't as dense as your average spud based fish cake. I'd given up on making them when a spot of some lovely baccala on Ridley Road market reminded me of them and I set about finding a recipe. I initially assumed they were Italian due to the owner of the deli but couldn't find anything similar on Google. Knowing those from the Iberian peninsula are partial to a bit of salt cold I turned to my lone Catalan cookbook (Catalan Cuisine by Colman Andrews - a great book) and found something that I thought might hit the spot - bunyols de baccalla.
The recipe was a first for me as it whisked plain flour into boiling water and olive oil and cooked this into a batter, almost like a water based bechamel, finally adding some potato and the salt cod. The proportions of fish to potato looked like it could yield the texture I was after and the batter element looked promising for the outside. I wanted some chili in mine and altered the quantities to match what I had available and ended up with the recipe below. In the book it says to eat them piping hot but I preferred them cool, probably due to memories from the deli's offering. The outside is slightly crisp, with a certain leathery quality that gives way to the soft middle and the delicate threads of the salt cod, they're very tasty and pretty damn garlicky so if you're not a fan of the flavour of near raw garlic then you might want to omit it.
Salt Cod Croquettes (Bunyols de Baccalla)
enough for two I reckon
300gr salt cod
40gr plain flour
2 medium eggs
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 birds eye chili, seeded and finely chopped
4ts olive oil
Small handful of chopped parsley
First things first you need to soak the cod for at least 24 hours, swapping the water at least 3 times.
Place the cod into water to cover then bring to the boil. Put a lid on then turn the heat off and leave for 10 minutes, remove and save the water.
Peel and roughly chop the spuds then simmer in the reserved fish water till tender.
Whilst these are simmering remove the skin and any bones from the salt cod and flake it into a bowl.
Drain the spuds and mash and add to the fish with the parsley, garlic, chili and lots of black pepper.
Bring the 200ml of water and 4 ts of olive oil to the boil then remove from the heat and whisk in the plain flour. Leave to cool for a bit then add in the two eggs and whisk till well combined. Place it over a low heat for a few minutes, whisking all the time until it's thickened nicely.
Mix into the other ingredients, stirring well to break everything up and combine and then place into the fridge until it's cooled and thickened.
Here I would fry a little bit and test for seasoning, it may want salt and it may not, depends on the saltiness from the fish really.
Shape into balls, disks, sausages or whatever takes your fancy (I got 8 little fish cakes) then deep fry - I went for 2cm oil and a turn halfway through - until golden.
Eat them hot or cold, dry or with something to dip them in, mayo was tasty.