Easter has traditionally been a time for frugal eating in Spain,
and the custom of not eating meat on certain days at this time of
year survives. Instead of meat in their soups, the Spanish like
to use dried and salted cod, 'bacalao', which is why you see so
much of it in supermarkets at this time. One of the favourite Andalusian
thick soups for Easter, especially Good Friday, is this one of salt
cod and chickpeas. It is very simple, but is at its best the day
after it's made.
400g salt cod
100g dried white beans
1 head of garlic
4 extra cloves, garlic, peeled and sliced
2 bay leaves
a dozen peppercorns
4 tbps olive oil
saffron colouring ('colorante'), optional
- The night
before you want to make the soup, put the chickpeas and beans
in a big bowl. Rinse the salt from the cod and add it to the bowl.
Cover everything with plenty of cold water and leave to soak overnight.
- Next day,
drain everything and put the beans and chickpeas in a large pot.
Put the cod back in fresh water to carry on soaking. Now prepare
the head of garlic: strip off all the loose skin and gripping
the garlic with tongs, hold it over a medium gas flame until it
is thoroughly scorched all over. Remove any loose burnt bits and
put the garlic in the pot, along with the extra sliced garlic,
the bay leaves and the peppercorns.
- Pour in
the olive oil and swirl it round so that everything is coated,
then pour in 1.5 litres of water. Cover and bring to the boil.
- Reduce the
heat to medium so that the soup cooks at a lively boil. Cook for
an hour, covered, topping up the soup with boiling water every
twenty minutes or so.
- After an
hour, check the chickpeas and beans to see if they are tender.
If they are, add the drained pieces of cod and a little of the
saffron colouring. This incidentally has no flavour but is used
merely to brighten up dishes which might otherwise look rather
- Cook for
ten minutes more, then check for salt (it shouldn't need any).
Turn off the heat and leave to cool. Refrigerate until the next
day if wished.
- I think it's
nicest if you take the trouble to remove all the skin and bone
from the fish before you serve the soup, so take out all the pieces.
Scrape off the skin and use a knife and fork to extract as many
bones as possible. You can also scoop out the creamy garlic from
- Return the
fish to the pot and reheat the soup gently but thoroughly. Sprinkle
with chopped parsley before serving.
- Many cooks
like to add chopped spinach to the soup towards the end.
This is best done when reheating it.
- The soup
is better if you add the cod's tail along with the other pieces
This is not eaten but its natural gelatin improves the texture
of the soup.
- If the salt
cod is quite thick it would be advisable to leave it a few more
hours in soak, changing the water half way through.
- A strong
red wine is the best thing to drink with this soup.