JOANNA'S FOOD: family cooking, from scratch, every day

Saturday, January 26, 2008

HFW's saltfish and parsnip rosti fishcake

I haven't tried this recipe yet, but I intend to. I copied it out of Anna's copy ofHugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's Fish on Boxing Day, with a black crayon onto an old airmail envelope, the only writing tools that could be found. Now I'm in danger of losing the envelope, so I'm posting to keep it safe: I'm unlikely to buy Fish until I've given away a few more recipe books :)

I've never cooked saltfish, though I've meant to ever since I ate it at the end of a long day's train journey from Brittany to Lyons to fetch my (then) 10-year-old daughter, who had been staying with friends in the French Alps. I volunteered for this break from our family holiday because I wanted to go to a museum in Paris during a two- or three-hour pause in the journey, and because I wanted to visit the Jean Moulin Museum in the old Gestapo headquarters in Lyons (I was studying 20th century French history at the time). But it was August, and both were shut. I'd also taken the wrong book: one about the history of the English landscape - singularly inappropriate when every time I looked up I saw the markedly different French landscape.

But dinner that evening was magical: in a little street restaurant, not on the tourist map, hardly any choice, and starting with a saltfish puree - oily, garlicky, almost worth the hours and hours of solitary journeying.

It used to be a trek to the next town to buy any interesting fish, but now the butcher is my wet fishmonger, and the supermarket in my village stocks saltfish, so there's no excuse - except my lingering suspicion that I'm going to be the only person in the house who will actually want to eat anything I make with saltfish. And Elizabeth David - SO discouraging about making brandade de morue at home.

Saltfish and parsnip rosti fishcake

for 4-6 as a starter, 2-3 main course

1-2 parsnips (250-300g), grated
1 small onion
100g rehydrated* hard salt fish (or 200g lightly salted white fish fillet) cut into 1 cm cubes
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
rosemary, finely chopped
1 beaten egg
oil for frying

* to rehydrate saltfish, soak for 48 hours in cold water, changing it twice daily (and HFW says that it's important to taste - I think he means the water, but perhaps someone with a copy of the book can enlighten us?)

Mix everything together. Heat the oil, drop in handfuls, squashing them to a cake 8cm in diameter and 1 cmthick. Fry gently so that they don't burn, but enough that they heat through to the middle - 5-7 minutes. Flip, brown the other side, rest on kitchen paper. Eat hot with a green salad.

Doesn't that sound good? That's why I didn't want to lose it!

Related posts:

Nigel Slater's Real Fast Food
Would you like me to give you a recipe book?


David Hall said...

Joanna, I'm more influenced by the great food writers rather than chefs, and HFW along with Jane Grigson and Nigel Slater are my absolute favourites. The new HFW Fish book is a beauty, and so is this recipe. Loving your Blog, you seem to have gone onto another level in 2008?


aforkfulofspaghetti said...

It does sound good, indeed! I have a surplus of parsnips at the moment, so now I just have to track down some saltfish... Thanks for the recipe!

Joanna said...

David thanks for kind words - and I agree with you about writers, esp Jane Grigson, although I'm not so keen on N Slater. All my absolute favourite cookery books have no photographs, some not even any line drawings

Saltfish - the sort in the photograph here - can be found at Tesco, in amongst the shelves of foreign foods


MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

I'm so shallow, I still love pictures. But when the writer is Jane Grigson you don't need pictures. This is a fun way to save the recipe. I love your story of the trip!

Joanna said...

Tanna, I too am seduced by photographs ... lovely ones of Venice in my latest cookbook, Francesco's Kitchen.

Looking back at this post, I see I didn't mention the other great thing about that trip ... hours and hours of non-stop chatter all the way back!