Portuguese-style salt-cod bake

Serves 6-8

By Fiona Beckett
Saturday 01 November 2008 21:16

Not a dish to be attempted if you're short of time, but it has the advantage of being able to feed substantial numbers for a very modest outlay. Note that you need to soak the salt- cod for 24 hours before using it.

400g/13oz salt cod (available from various ethnic shops)
4tbsp olive oil
40g/11/2oz butter
500g/1lb onions, peeled and thinly sliced
2 large cloves of garlic
25g/1oz plain flour
600ml/1 pint whole milk
1 bay leaf
1 heaped tsp capers, finely chopped if large
900g/13/4lb potatoes, well scrubbed and thinly sliced
2tsp white or red wine vinegar
3 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and cut into 8 wedges
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Soak the salt cod in water 24 hours before you intend to use it, changing the water two or three times. Cover it with fresh cold water, and bring it slowly to the boil. If the water is still salty, repeat, then leave it to simmer over a very low heat for 7-8 minutes until tender. Reserve a little of the cooking water, drain off the rest and set the cod aside to cool.

Meanwhile, heat three tablespoons of olive oil in a large frying pan, add half the butter and fry the onions over a low heat until soft and translucent. Add the garlic and cook a couple of minutes more. Stir in the flour then gradually add the milk and cook until thickened. Add the bay leaf and capers and leave to infuse over a low heat. Bring the sliced potatoes to the boil and drain. Flake the fish, removing any bones and add it and the vinegar to the onions, adding a little of the reserved water to thin the sauce. Remove the bay leaf and season generously with pepper. If you've soaked the fish thoroughly it may also need some salt.

Generously oil a large, rectangular ovenproof dish. Put a third of the potatoes in the base, cover with half the eggs and half the fish and onions, then repeat the layers, finishing with a layer of potato. Brush the top of the potatoes with the remaining melted butter and bake in a moderately hot oven (190C/375F/Gas 5) for 45-50 minutes, until the filling is bubbling and the potatoes are nicely browned. Serve with a sharply dressed green salad.

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