Salt cod with white polenta

Serves 6
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Indy Lifestyle Online

At Petersham we cure our own salt cod, which is simple and allows us to control how salty the final result is. But it is not difficult to find salt cod in any Portuguese or Spanish delicatessen. This makes the process far quicker and easier.

500g/1lb salt cod
1 pint of milk
4 cloves garlic
2 bay leaves
80ml/3fl oz olive oil
3 tbsp crème fraîche

For the polenta

1 litre/13/4 pints water
250g/8oz white polenta
The zest of an unwaxed lemon
50g/2oz unsalted butter
Sea salt and black pepper

Start by soaking the cod in water. Leave for a couple of hours, change the water and soak again. Repeat this process three times. The final time, leave it soaking overnight. The next day, remove the cod from the water, and place in a pan large enough to hold it. Pour over the milk, add the garlic and bay leaves and bring to just under a boil; cook for five minutes then remove from the heat and allow to cool.

Once cooled, place the cod in a mixing bowl with a third of the milk in which it was heated, having first removed the bay leaves but not the garlic. Take a rolling pin and pound the cod gently with the end. The cod should break up into a rough sort of purée. Add the olive oil and crème fraîche and continue to pound. The cod should be smooth and soft but still with |a little texture. Taste for seasoning; it will not need salt but perhaps a little pepper. Set aside while you cook the polenta.

For the polenta, place a large, heavy-based pan over a high heat, add the water and let it come to a boil. Once the water has boiled, add the polenta. Turn down the heat and cook the polenta until soft and creamy in texture – it is important to stir the polenta constantly until cooked. Once cooked, add the lemon zest and butter, and season with salt and pepper. You can keep the polenta warm by sitting the bowl above a saucepan of simmering water.

Place the finished salt cod in a saucepan, keeping the heat low, stirring until it is well warmed through. Divide the polenta between four plates and spoon over the warmed cod. I generally finish the dish by pouring over a little olive oil.

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