I don't cook an awful lot of fish at home – with certain species being catastrophically overfished, giving fish a bit of respite from day-to-day cooking is a good thing. When I do buy some, I follow guidance from the Marine Conservation Society, sticking to grade one or two, and ensure I get the most out of it. Last week I bought some lovely pollack from my fishmonger – enough to batter and fry fresh that evening, with some leftover to salt.
Salt fish is a great ingredient to have in the kitchen – you can buy fish when it's at a good price, and cook with it when you want to. These fritters are absolutely delicious and worth the salting process alone, but search for other salt fish recipes, too, and experiment with your homemade supply. Bear in mind it takes at least one week, and up to two, to salt fish, depending on thickness and size of the fillets.
It is tricky to give exact quantities of salt, as it depends on how much fish you buy and its shape and thickness. It would be good to have about 500g of coarse sea salt to hand the first time you do this, though you probably won't need it all. Get some fillets of sustainable, white fresh fish, such as pollack or coley, and coarse sea salt (not expensive varieties, though – they're a bit of a waste here).
Sprinkle some salt in a container or tray that will fit the fish in a single layer and lay the fillets on it. Cover the fish with more salt, cover and put in the fridge.
Each day, tip away the liquid that has come out of the fish and replenish the salt as required (if too much has dissolved and the fish is no longer covered).
Once no more liquid is coming out of the fish – anywhere between five days and two weeks, though the salt will still feel damp – remove from the container. Leave any salt clinging to the fish, lightly sprinkle with a little fresh salt, put into a container with a lid and return the fridge.
This will keep well for months in a fridge. It is a good idea to check the container every couple of weeks and get rid of any liquid that has collected.
Salt fish fritters
(Serves 4 as a starter)
500g salt fish, soaked in plenty of cold water for at least 48 hours, water changed at least twice a day. To test: taste a little raw from the middle of the fish to gauge the saltiness
1 bay leaf
2 medium potatoes
2 tbsp olive oil
60g plain flour
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 sprigs parsley, finely chopped
Sunflower oil, to fry
Cover the salt fish in cold water, add the bay leaf and bring to a simmer. Turn the heat to low and poach gently for a couple of minutes. The fish should be just cooked.
Remove the fish and reserve the water. When cool enough to handle, remove any bones and skin and flake the fish.
Peel and slice the potatoes and boil in the fish water until cooked. Drain, reserving the water again.
In another pan, bring 330ml of the cooking water and the olive oil to a boil, then remove from the heat and quickly beat in the flour to form a batter. It will be very lumpy. Allow to cool slightly for a minute, then beat in the eggs one by one.