The Traditional Dish Of Greek Independence Day
- by XpatAthens
- Sunday, 18 March 2018
The 25th of March always falls during the Orthodox Church's period of Great Lent when the faithful fast for nearly fifty days. No meat, no fish, no dairy products and sometimes no olive oil are allowed to be consumed. The church made two exceptions: one on the 25th of March and the other on Palm Sunday when only fish can be consumed. People living near the shores ate fresh fish on both these occasions but people in remote mountain villages could not, as there were no refrigeration trucks to transport fish. So when salted Vakalaos (Cod) was imported, many years ago, it was ideal, not only for lent but for other days as well, as it was cheap and could be preserved for a long time.
The basic secret for the batter is ice cold water which helps so that the fried pieces of fish do not absorb too much oil which can lead to a very sticky result. Corn flour produces a crispy and light crust on the cod and once ready you'll see how hard it is to resist devouring more than one piece!
The oil used fir frying can be any kind of vegetable oil, although many cooks do prefer olive oil because it has a high burning point and brings out the flavors of the food. Also, olive oil does not penetrate food during the cooking process as easily as some other types of oils, which in turn result in a lower fat content.
How to Unsalt Cod:
- Cut the cod into portions, remove skin, rinse to remove salt and place in a bowl and cover with water.
- If cod is not a fillet make sure to remove all the bones.
- Drain and change the water every 3 – 4 hours for at least 24 hours before preparing.
What's Needed Once Unsalted:
1 kg fresh cod
4 tablespoons flour
300 ml sunflower oil
Salt to taste
- Cut the cod into slices approx. 3cm wide.
- Remove the central bone, fold open the remaining flesh and cut it in half.
- Salt each of the pieces and sprinkle flour on them.
- Deep fry in hot oil for approx. 4 minutes.
Preparing Skordalia (garlic dip): Skordalia is a Greek garlic sauce often accompanying batter-fried salt cod. Prep time: 50 minutes. Makes 3 cups.
1/2 kilo boiling potatoes
1/2 cup light cream, or more to taste
6 large garlic cloves, peeled
2 cups 1/2-inch diced French or Italian bread, crust removed
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
Salt to taste
1. In a large pot, place the potatoes in cold water to cover by several inches and turn the heat to medium. Once the water begins to boil, about 20 minutes, continue to boil until a skewer glides easily through the center of each potato, another 25 to 30 minutes. Peel the potatoes once they are cool enough to handle. Pass the potatoes through a food mill or colander and slowly whip in the cream.
2. Pound the garlic in a mortar until mushy. Add the garlic to the potatoes, mixing well. Soak the bread cubes in a little water until sodden, then squeeze the water out. Pass the bread through the food mill or colander. Blend the bread, potatoes, and garlic together with a fork in a mixing bowl.
3. Slowly pour the olive oil and vinegar in a steady stream as you continue beating with a fork until the mixture has the consistency of a thick mayonnaise. Do not do this in a food processor because the potatoes will become gummy in their over processing. Season with salt and refrigerate until needed.
Variation: Add chopped almonds, walnuts, or pine nuts after mashing the garlic.
Sources: Kopiaste.org and cliffordawright.com