Already two days before the national and religious holiday on 25th March, Greeks flock to grocery stores as early as possible in order to get their proper supply of salted cod fish for the great feast.
With their penetrating odor, the large fish fillets are stapled in wooden barrels or hessian sacks that empty in zero time.
For a Greek who loves tradition there is no 25th March lunch without fried μπακαλιάρος cod fish, πατζάρια red beet and σκορδαλιά garlic sauce.
With 25th March being a dual holiday, the tradition dictates: cod, beet and garlic are a must for the Greek family table.
On 25th March Greeks celebrate the start of the War of Independence and the Annunciation, the announcement of Jesus’ conception by an angel.
Eating fish on this special day has nothing to do with the War of Independence but with the Lent tradition that was established in the 4th century AD. Christians may have to fast, reflect and pray but the Annunciation is a joyful day and therefore the holy fathers allow the consumption of fish as well as of oil and wine.
But why salted cod fish and not fresh? For purely economical reasons as it is cheap, available by any weather and in all regions, not only the coastal ones. Furthermore, it can be kept outside the refrigerator.
As for the combination with red beet salad, I assume, that beets were plenty in the storage rooms towards the end of March.
When exactly the salted cod fish tradition was initiated I cannot tell. But I can give you a recipe for fried cod fish and garlic sauce.
Important for preparing the fish is the procedure to have the salt removed. It needs 24 or up to 48 hours and that’s why Greeks purchase it two days earlier than they will consume it.
Salted cod is covered with large amounts of salt that conserves it and prevents the growth of bacteria and microorganisms.
The cod desalination process last 24 to 48 hours.
You first rub the salt away from the fish under running water. Then put the fish into a container full of cold water. Then the throw the water away and refill the container. The water should be changed every 8 to 12 hours.
Once the fish is desalted, you pat it dry with kitchen towel and is ready to be cooked, fried or baked.
You can remove the skin and the bones or let your guests doing so while eating the fried fish.
Crispy Fried Cod fish – Greek style
1 kg salted cod fish, desalted and cut into thick slices
Flour to dust the fish slices
Batter (traditional recipe)
1-2 l Oil for deep fry
For the batter: Mix 1 1/2 cup all purpose flour with 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder and less than 1 tea spoon salt. Add the milk and the egg and mix well. you can add 2 tablespoons ouzo.
Dust the fish with flour and dip the pieces into the batter. Place them in the hot oil and let if fry until golden brown.
When ready, put the pieces into paper kitchen towel to soak the oil.
The trick to get a crispy cod fish is:
1. there is plenty of oil; must cover the fish at 2/3
2. oil is hot when you place the fish.
Serve with lemon slices and skordalia ⇓
Skordalia with Walnuts- Garlic Sauce
4-6 garlic teeth
1/2 cup roughly chopped walnuts
3 cup old bread without the crust
1 cup olive oil
2-4 table spoon vinegar
Soak the bread in cold water for 10 minutes. Drain and squeeze with the hands so that the crumbs are as dry as possible.
In a multi, mix garlic with bread and 1/4 of the olive oil. Add the walnuts, 2 spoons vinegar, salt and the rest of olive oil. Mix well until a thick paste. Taste and add more salt or vinegar if necessary.
You can replace walnuts with hazelnuts or even blanched almonds. If you add two avocados, you get a nicely green garlic sauce – but that’s a very modern version…
Red Beet -Patzaria
Whole red beet are boiled in water, then skin is removed. Cut into slices and serve with salt, oilive oil and vinegar.
Enjoy the 25th March with Bakaliaros Skordalia from scratch or just go to the next taverna or call the delivery service. Today, Sunday, is too late to desalinate the cod, anyway.
* thumbnail picture is from internet. I wasn’t able to find the pictures from last year’s fried cod.