The Monaco GP – Salt Cod and Champagne (well , a sparkling white!)

So this weekend was the “Blue Riband” event of the F1 season: the Monaco GP.  Given that I’m still in temporary accommodation a full on glamour Monaco party compete was out of the question (maybe next year….) and I had to settle for watching the race on the Citadines big screen in the foyer with some British commentary streaming off our laptop.  It may not have been A-list or exclusive, but it was a great race and I enjoyed it all the same.

In the evening after I cooked my traditional dish from the region.  I struggled to find a recipe to cook for Monaco, the few websites that described Monegasque cuisine all said the same thing (I wonder which wrote it first…) without giving details of how to cook the dishes they described.  After much searching I eventually discovered a great site in French with quite a lot of dishes.  From this site I decided to cook the Morue rôtie à la sauce tomate (Roast cod with tomato sauce).

I ate once salt cod about 15 years ago when on holiday in Portugal, and remembered it as unusual but not unpleasant.  Although it seems to be present in most of the supermarkets around here I had not, however, tried to cook with it. Mentioning the recipe at work showed that no one there had attempted it either, so I can only assume that it is used by a very select group of locals.

Salting cod is an ancient way of preserving the fish.  Unfortunately the salt cod itself was quite off-putting.  It was hard as a board, encrusted in salt and it didn’t smell overly pleasant (I thought it wasn’t that nice, but my partner wouldn’t go near it because of the smell).

The salt cod

Before it could be rendered edible the salt cod needed to be soaked for 24 hours + (I did mine for close to 48 hours) in water that is changed every few hours.  This helps to each out much (but not all) of the salt as well as re-hydrating the flesh leaving you with something a lot closer to a fresh fillet than you would expect from first looking at the dried salted version.

The salt cod at the beginning of the saoking (left) and after 48 hours (right)

If I’m completely honest the salt cod smelt pretty bad while it was soaking as well.  About 6 pints of water was not sufficient to cover that smell! When the fillet was finally ready to use my next challenge was to try and turn it into fillets.  I have never filleted a fish before and this turned out to be a lot harder than I thought it would be.  The salt cod I was using was quite thin and bony and the slightly rubbery texture didn’t help matters.  In the end I managed to get off 5 (rather small) pieces before I gave up.  These were patted dry and coated in flour ready to be fried later on.

The reults of my poor attempt at filleting

The next thing to crack on with was the tomato sauce.  I peeled and finely chopped a carrot and an onion and chopped some garlic.  I then put crosses on the bottom of 6 tomatoes and plunged them into boiling water for a minute before draining them and rinsing them in cold water (all measurements are an approximation of the recipe since I don’t have the means to weight anything).  This enabled me to peel the skin from the tomatoes easily before quartering them and removing the seeds.  I cut the remaining flesh into smallish pieces.

Preparing the tomatoes

To make the sauce I fired off the onion, carrot and garlic in plenty of olive oil for about 5 minutes till they started to colour.  I then added the tomato flesh and a sprig of time giving everything a good mix before leaving it over a low heat for half an hour to combine.  After this time the components were still separate but held together by the wonderfully flavoured oil and finished with the addition of some chopped parsley.

Making the sauce

With the sauce finished it was time to cook my salt cod “filets”.  These went into a hot pan of oil for about 5 minutes to get some colour and cook through, after days of preparation the cooking didn’t take long at all!

Frying the salt cod

I served the salt cod and sauce with some simple boiled potatoes, there were plenty of flavours happening already and I didn’t want to overpower the dish.

All served up

After the rather pungent smell of the cod in its uncooked smell I didn’t have the highest hopes for this dish, however I was very happily surprised. For sure it was rather unusual and there was a distinct saltiness and a taste of the sea that was very strong. However that wasn’t unpleasant, just different.  The sauce turned out to be very sweet despite me not having added any sugar and this was a nice contrast to the cod, if slightly overpowering at times (maybe I shouldn’t have served up the whole sauce!) .

Despite being in France I couldn’t quite stretch to a bottle of real champagne.  Wanting to try and maintain a bit of glamour I still decide to accompany this dish with a bottle of sparkling white, however I resorted to a perfectly pleasant, if slightly sweet, bottle of €2 Muscador.

Our "Champagne"

Overall this dish was nice, but it was not nice enough when you consider the amount of prep involved.  Yes, this is only soaking, but the water does need to be changed every few hours and by having the salt cod in one pan for so long I drastically reduced my cooking equipment!

The race itself was amazing. The final part of qualifying had to be stopped after Perez crashed heavily into the barriers leading to a concussion which prevented him racing.  After the session restarted no one was able to beat the time that had been set by Vettel giving him his fifth P1 of the season.  He went on to make it his 5th win as well, after a crash involving a large selection of the mid field resulted in the race being red flagged in order for Petrov to be extracted from his car (he luckily escaped uninjured).

Before the red flag Vettel’s, who tyres were just about shot, was being closely chased by both Button and Alonso.  However under the red flag conditions the racers were for some reason able to change their tyres meaning that after the restart a sense of equilibrium was restored and even Hamilton barging Maldonado out of the way couldn’t upset the order of the top three.


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12 Responses to “The Monaco GP – Salt Cod and Champagne (well , a sparkling white!)”

  1. hopeeternal Says:

    This looks lovely – I can get salt fish quite easily here in East London so we eat it fairly often. Don’t often get champers with it though!

    Isn’t it strange when you post something and then read about the same thing elsewhere shortly after! I posted twice about salt cod a couple of weeks ago (10 & 15 May 2011): one was how to salt fish and the other gave just one idea on what to do with it. I have another post for a future date with a very similar sauce to yours, which reminds me of something we ate with tuna when on holiday in the Basque country.

    ‘Meanderings through my Cookbook’

  2. Corina Says:

    I’d love to try salt cod. I keep seeing it in the shops here in London but my partner hates fishy smells so I don’t think I’d be able to get away with it, and even if I did he’d probably refuse to eat it after smelling it soaking!

    • hopeeternal Says:

      The soaking fish doesn’t smell at all, Corina, but afraid like all fish the cooking does. Hard luck! You will have to find another way of trying it.

      • rhiannong Says:

        I ahve to say that although it didn’t smell as bad as when it wasn’t soaking, there was a definate fishy wiff to the kitchen while it was! It didn’t taste fishy at all though, salty, but not fishy

  3. noblenourishment Says:

    Aww I’m glad it tasted nice after all that preperation; I hate going to load of effort (or spending lots of time) on something, just for it to be a tasteless failure! €2 for a bottle of sparkling white? Amazing!

  4. hopeeternal Says:

    That wine is a bargain – Catherine’s right! Did you get it from a French supermarket? If so, which one – I will have to look out for it. We are off to France (and Spain) in a few weeks.

    • rhiannong Says:

      It was is Carrefore so you should be able to get it quite easily. They have an impressive range of cheap wines I have to say. I’m going to be enjoying them!

      • hopeeternal Says:

        Thanks. Lots of Carrefour branches in France – I will keep a look out.

  5. greedy rosie Says:

    Ok. I’ve been meaning to use saltfish for a longtime now, but I’ve always been been a bit scared. I think I can do it now – but I think I’m going to keep it in a pail in the garden!

  6. hopeeternal Says:

    Now back from France… The first Carrefour (Market) we found I searched out and bought the Muscador at €2.01 – and very pleasant it was too. (Enjoyed in our Kyriad hotel room accompanying a d.i.y meat and salad meal from the supermarket!) Later in the holiday we tried the rose version but it was not nearly as good. We saw Muscador quite a lot but the price differed from place to place. I bought some bottles home – an even better bargain bought in SuperU (at Le Puy) where it cost even less €1.85 (ish – afraid I have mislaid the receipt). Thanks again for the recommend!

    • rhiannong Says:

      I’m so glad you liked it, I’ve tried the Rose as well and wasn’t impressed. I hope you had a great trip across, it was a nice weekend for it! I”ll have to look out for a Super U to buy it even cheaper!

  7. hopeeternal Says:

    Think the answer is to shop around. The prices vary from place to place, shop to shop and region to region! That seems to go for whatever you buy! I saw a bottle of non-alcoholic sparkling grape at under £2 in ASDA the other day which I am off to try …!

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