Cod cured in red pepper paste

Cod cured in red pepper paste

Bacalhau com massa de pimentão

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Serves
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I love to eat fish in its raw or cured state; perhaps it’s my fascination with Japanese food that brought this about. For this dish, fillets of cod are cured in massa de pimentão, a classic Portuguese paste made from fermented red peppers, which is used in sauces, dressings and marinades. Typically, the peppers are fermented for several days with garlic and salt, and the end product is a brilliant storecupboard staple, deep red in colour and thick in texture. My recipe provides a simpler option for which you don’t have to ferment the peppers, and which includes smoky paprika and vinegar to help recreate the fermented flavours. If you can, though, try making the real thing. Store the paste in the fridge, covered with a layer of extra-virgin olive oil. You’ll find that the flavour continues to develop.

Ingredients

Quantity Ingredient
200g Hearty cod and coriander broth, cured cod fillet
a few slices crusty bread
1 garlic clove, halved
extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
1 lemon, Finely grated zested

For the red pepper paste

Quantity Ingredient
3 red peppers
a generous pinch smoked paprika, (optional)
1 garlic clove
fine sea salt, for fermenting
40ml chardonnay vinegar or good-quality white wine vinegar, (optional), plus extra to taste
sea salt flakes
ground white pepper

Method

  1. To make the red pepper paste — Start by fermenting the peppers, if you like. (If using fresh peppers, skip to the next paragraph.) Deseed and chop the peppers into equal small pieces. Add the garlic, weigh the mixture and then add 2% of the total weight in fine sea salt. Mix very well and put the mixture on a baking tray, loosely covered with kitchen foil. Heat it in the oven for a couple of hours on the lowest setting possible. Set it aside overnight. The next day, blitz it with a stick blender, then leave to ferment in a sealed plastic container in a warm place for 3–4 days. There should be a rich, sour flavour.
  2. If using fresh peppers, preheat the oven to 200°C. Put the peppers on a baking tray and roast for 20 minutes, or until charred. Put them in a plastic bag, then tie it and leave to cool. Peel the peppers and remove the core and seeds. Using a stick blender, blend the peppers with the vinegar, garlic and a generous pinch of sea salt flakes, pepper and paprika.
  3. The paste can be used as it is or, if you want a thicker one (for marinating meats, for example), you could simmer it gently in a pan, stirring, to reduce the liquid. If you want to make a dressing with it, slowly pour in extra-virgin olive oil in a ratio of two parts paste to one part oil, stirring to emulsify it, and add 20ml Chardonnay vinegar to increase the acidity.
  4. Rinse and dry the cod carefully with kitchen paper. Put it on a clean tray and spread the red pepper paste on both sides of the fish, ensuring it is completely covered. Leave to marinate for 20 minutes, turning it once.
  5. Preheat the oven to 200°C. Rub the bread with the garlic clove and drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil. Toast in the oven for 5 minutes, or until golden brown and crispy.
  6. Flake the cod gently into large chunks, or slice it thinly with a sharp knife, on to a clean plate. Sprinkle the lemon zest on top and finish with extra-virgin olive oil. Serve the toast on the side.
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