Salt cod with tomato, fennel, saffron and aïoli

Salt cod with tomato, fennel, saffron and aïoli

A Year In My Kitchen

The base flavours of this dish are reminiscent of a classic French bouillabaisse. They work brilliantly with salt cod, just as they do with the assortment of fish you encounter in a traditional bouillabaisse. The accompanying garlicky aïoli, once stirred in, helps to create a rich and velvety sauce that has a sublime flavour.


Quantity Ingredient
800g salt cod, (see note)
1 large fennel bulbs
or 2 small fennel bulbs
good pinch saffron threads
5 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, peeled and chopped
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 medium leek, washed and sliced
4 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
4 tablespoons dry white wine
2 x 400g cans good quality italian plum tomatoes
3 bay leaves
few thyme sprigs
1 orange, finely peeled zest
175ml see method for ingredients
or 175ml water
2 tablespoons black olives

To serve

Quantity Ingredient


  1. Trim the fennel and cut into 2cm thick wedges. Scatter the saffron in a medium-large flameproof casserole and place over a low heat. When the casserole is just hot to the touch, add the olive oil and quickly swirl to cover the base. Add the chopped onion, fennel and a generous pinch of sea salt. Stir, then cover and cook gently for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onion is soft and translucent. Add the leek and garlic and cook for a few minutes.
  2. Pour in the wine and allow it to bubble and evaporate slightly. Add the tomatoes, bay leaves, thyme sprigs, orange zest and a good sprinkling of pepper. Pour in the stock or water, bring to a simmer, cover and cook over a low heat for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. Meanwhile, lightly rinse the salt cod and slice at an angle into 4cm thick pieces. Gently place the salt cod slices in the casserole, nestling them among the other ingredients, and add the olives. Bring to a low simmer and cook for 3 minutes, swirling the pan gently once or twice to allow the flavours to get to know each other. Turn off the heat and allow to stand for a minute or two.
  4. Serve straight away, from the casserole, accompanied by the aïoli, a simple green salad and warm crusty bread to soak up the juices.


  • To home-cure salt cod, ask your fishmonger for a skinned cod fillet. Rinse it under cold running water and gently pat dry, using a clean cloth. Weigh the fish, then lay it on a stainless steel rack, which fits snugly inside a larger pan. Allowing 11/2 tbsp good quality sea salt per 500g of fish, season the fillet evenly on both sides, salting the thicker central section more liberally to ensure there is sufficient for curing. Loosely cover the pan with cling film to keep in the smell as far as possible. Leave to cure in the fridge for 3 days, pouring off any liquid and rinsing the bottom of the pan each day. Cod can be home-cured for a week, but this shorter curing gives a delicately flavoured salt cod that is perfect for this dish. Unlike salt cod that you buy, it doesn’t need soaking before use, just a light rinsing to remove excess salt.
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