Polenta ci­c­chetti with bac­calà (salt cod)

The Daily Telegraph - Telegraph Magazine - - When in Venice -

serves 4 as a starter

250g salt-cod fl­lets 140ml milk 70ml olive oil, plus ex­tra for cook­ing 150g in­stant polenta chopped pars­ley leaves, to serve Soak the salt cod in cold wa­ter, cover it and leave it for 48 hours. This will pre­vent it from tasting over­pow­er­ingly salty.

Drain away the wa­ter and cut the fl­lets in half, then place them in a heavy-based saucepan and cover them with milk – add a lit­tle wa­ter if you need more liq­uid. Add a gen­er­ous pinch of salt and set the pan over a medium heat. Leave the fsh to sim­mer for 20-30 min­utes, un­til ten­der. Ev­ery now and then, skim off any scum that forms on top of the broth.

Re­move the pan from the heat and drain the fsh, re­serv­ing a lit­tle of its cook­ing liq­uid. Spoon the fsh into a large mix­ing bowl, add a cou­ple of spoon­fuls of cook­ing liq­uid (just enough to loosen the cod) and mix well with a wooden spoon. Con­tinue cream­ing the fsh with the spoon as you be­gin to pour in the oil in a steady trickle. Mix vig­or­ously un­til you have a soft, creamy paste. Store this in a con­tainer in the fridge un­til you are ready to serve – it will keep well for up to two days.

To pre­pare the polenta, bring 1½ litres of wa­ter to the boil in a saucepan. Add three quar­ters of a ta­ble­spoon of salt and pour in the polenta in a fne stream. Stir con­tin­u­ously with a whisk un­til you have a thick and smooth mix­ture. Take the pan off the heat and pour the hot polenta on to a wooden board, then use a spoon to spread it out as evenly as you can, so you have a slab that is 1-2cm thick.

Leave to cool, then cover and store in the fridge un­til you are ready to serve.

To make up the ci­c­chetti, lightly grease a grid­dle pan with olive oil and set it over a high heat. Slice the polenta into squares no big­ger than 5cm and lay them face-down on the hot pan for a cou­ple of min­utes, un­til warmed through and char­grilled on top. Spoon some

bac­calà on to each polenta square and sprin­kle with pars­ley.

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