Friday, 8 May 2015

Kale and Salted Cod (Bacalau) Jamaican Style “Cook Down”

Kale and Salted Cod with Yam and Avocado





















This is one of those Jamaican Recipes for which there are no measurements, only a list of ingredients, some cooking notes, and a method of how to prepare the dish. The proportions are really dependent on your taste, and liking for each ingredient. This is a recipe that can be made to your specifications. Some people may like it more “Vegetarian” with more vegetables than fish, others may prefer it the other way round. It is based on the traditional Jamaican “Yard Food” type of one pot cooking, specifically “Callalloo and Salt Fish” which also forms a part of any Jamaican Sunday morning breakfast. I have tried to make it a bit healthier but also without sacrificing any of the flavors. So, instead of Callalloo, a green leafy vegetable used throughout the Caribbean, I have used Kale. It is usually eaten with a starch that ranges from a Fried bread dough  (Johnny Cake or Festival), or with root vegetables like Yellow Yam, Sweet Potato, Malanga etc. Sliced Avocado and fried ripe plantain also go well with this. 

List of Ingredients


Kale
Salted Cod Filets
Shallots
Tomatoes
Habanero Pepper
Red Bell Pepper
Thyme
Salt Pork (Fatback) or 1-2 slices thick cut bacon
Salt, black Pepper, Ground Allspice are the traditional seasonings but one can use any prepared multipurpose seasoning of your choice. For added flavor you can use a couple dashes of Worcester Sauce OR Tomato Ketchup OR Tomato Chili Sauce, depending on your preference (Yes the recipe is that versatile)
Notes


  1. To prepare the salted cod, I soak overnight in the fridge, changing the water at least twice. I usually pay more for the salted cod filets rather than the flat sheets of salted cod as they are too hard to separate the bones from the meat. When I am ready to use it, I discard the water in which it has been soaking, add fresh water and bring it to a boil, changing the water each time it boils to discard the foam that comes from boiling the fish. Once it comes to a boil with minimal foaming, I cook it for between 5-7 minutes until it flakes easily.  I then shred it for the recipe, coating the pieces in a small amount of olive oil so that they don’t clump together.
  2. To prepare the Kale, I remove the stems, and chop the leaves like you would any other leafy vegetable.
  3. Chop the garlic cloves finely, peel the shallots and cut into thin slices. Cut into thin slices however much of the Habanero you want to use. Cut the bell pepper and tomato into small cubes. I put the tomato in a separate bowl to which I add the sprigs of thyme, and I add the cubes of bell pepper to the bowl with the shallots, sliced Habanero and garlic.
  4. Cut a small piece of salted pork into small pieces. Use however much you think you would like. I just use enough to give it flavor. Thick cut bacon or pieces of country ham may also be used. These seasoning bits are fried in a small amount of oil, rendering them down until cooked and crisp. Add these to the bowl with the flaked, cooked, salted cod. Since the oil that the salted pork or whatever you have decided to use is what extracts the flavor and transfers it to the rest of the ingredients, reserve 1 tbsp of the oil, and discard the rest that has resulted from the rendering process. 
Method



  1. Heat the reserved 1 tbsp oil that resulted from the rendering of the salted meat, and sauté the shallots, garlic, sliced Habanero in it. Once the shallots have become transparent, add the cubed tomato, bell pepper and thyme sprigs. Sauté all for a minute or two, then add the seasonings you have decided to use as well as the sauce you have selected.
  2. Add the flaked salted cod and fried salted meat, then cover and simmer for about 5 minutes or until the bell pepper is cooked to your liking (some people like this well cooked i.e soft, others more “al dente”.)
  3. Add the washed, chopped kale leaves on top of the mixture in the frying pan or wok, mix well and cover to steam until the kale is cooked to your liking. Add more seasoning at this stage if needed. Plate and enjoy with the starch of your choice, and some slices of avocado or fried ripe plantains!

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