Salt cod with fennel, tomato and saffron

Serves 6

This dish is easy to assemble and is cooked almost as soon as it simmers. It has a lovely texture and has the added bonus of being inexpensive to make.

11/2kg/3lb salt cod , skinned and soaked in clean water for 12 hours (you will need to change the water 3-4 times to remove the salty flavour)
1/2 cup of extra-virgin olive oil
1 yellow onion, peeled and finely chopped
3 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
3 fresh bay leaves
2 medium fennel bulbs
1 dried chilli, crumbled
A pinch of saffron threads
1/4 cup of white wine
1 jar of good-quality plum tomatoes
A small pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper

Once you have finished soaking the salt cod, set it aside and place a medium-sized, heavy-based pan over a low to medium heat and add some of the olive oil for frying. When the oil is warm, add the onion, garlic and bay leaves and sauté over a gentle heat for 10 minutes.

Slice the fennel into quarters, removing the outer layer and add to the pan with the chilli and saffron. Now add the wine and turn up the heat slightly so that the wine bubbles. Add the tomatoes and continue to cook for 20 minutes, by which time the broth should be warm and rich in flavour.

Slice the cod into four fillets and nestle each into the sauce. Add the rest of the olive oil and cook for a further 3-5 minutes. Adjust the seasoning if necessary, but remember that salt cod is – unsurprisingly – quite salty. Serve in warmed bowls and garnish with thyme and olives if you like. Pass around some slices of warmed peasant style bread to mop up the juices.

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