Hearty cod and coriander broth

Hearty cod and coriander broth

Açorda de bacalhau

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Serves
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Açorda was invented during times of deep poverty, when ingredients had to be stretched in unfathomable ways. But despite its frugality, it’s a soup we Portuguese truly love. A pan of fish stock mixed with garlic, coriander and olive oil, poured over a nice piece of cod and a slice of stale sourdough bread is a brilliant example of how simple yet full of flavour our cooking can be.

I love to cure fish because it draws the moisture out of the flesh, which means it has a nicer texture and cooks more evenly. I use a ratio of 6 parts sugar to 4 parts salt, which enhances the natural sweetness of the fish. You can also add other flavourings, depending on the final dish (see left for suggestions). The possibilities are endless, so experiment! You could try curing halibut, bream, bass, mackerel or sole and matching them with different seasonings.

Ingredients

Quantity Ingredient

For the cured cod

Quantity Ingredient
90g caster sugar
60g fine sea salt
aromatics of your choice, such as bay leaves, coriander seeds or leaves, parsley, orange and lemon zest, fennel seeds, black peppercorns and perhaps a cinnamon stick for warmth
2 x 150g skinless, pin-boned cod fillets of an even thickness, (the top, fatter part of the loin is ideal)

For the cod broth

Quantity Ingredient
2 tablespoons olive oil
200g cod trimmings, (ask your fishmonger)
2 garlic cloves, crushed

For the açorda

Quantity Ingredient
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 garlic cloves, crushed
a small bunch coriander, stalks finely chopped and leaves picked
2 slices sourdough or other rustic loaf
a handful mint leaves
extra-virgin olive oil, to serve
sea salt flakes
ground white pepper

Method

  1. To cure the cod — Whisk together the sugar, salt and aromatics, ensuring they are well combined. Spread half the cure over the bottom of a small tray. Put the fish on top and cover with the remaining cure. Set aside for 20–30 minutes at room temperature. It’s worth checking sooner than you expect, rather than over-curing it; it should feel tighter and firmer. Rinse off the cure and pat dry with kitchen paper.
  2. To make the cod broth — Heat the olive oil in a pan over a medium heat. Add the cod trimmings, garlic and 1 litre water, then simmer gently for 20–30 minutes. Remove from the heat, cover and leave to infuse for another 30 minutes.
  3. To make the açorda — Heat the olive oil in a pan over a low heat. Add the garlic and coriander stalks and cook gently for 5 minutes, until soft and fragrant. Season with salt and pepper. Pour in the cod broth and bring to the boil over a high heat. Reduce the heat to low, add the cured cod and poach for 5 minutes, until just starting to flake gently apart. Stir in the coriander leaves and taste for seasoning. Toast the bread. To serve, place a slice of toast in each bowl with a few mint leaves on top. Spoon the cod and broth over the toast, adding a little more broth than you think you need, as the bread will absorb a lot. Drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil and serve.
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