Bakaliaros (Cod) is another Greek traditional dish which has become synonymous to the 25th of March, which is the Annunciation of Virgin Mary and on that day we also celebrate the Revolution against the Turks in 1821.
The Annunciation in Greek is called Evangelismos and those named Evangelos or Evangelia celebrate their name day. My daughter has been christened Evangelia and we call her Elia for short and it is her name day as well. In Greece we celebrate our name days almost the same way we celebrate our birthday.
However how did we come to prepare this dish?
The 25th of March is always in the period of the Great Lent when the Orthodox 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 is on the 25th of March and the other on Palm Sunday when only fish can be consumed.For people living near the shores they 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, lots of 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 so much oil which would lead to “sticky” results. Corn flour produces a crispy and light crust to the cod and you will see that you won’t be able to resist devouring more and more bites. The frying oil can be any kind of vegetable oil but I personally prefer olive oil, since it has a very high smoke point, so that it doesn’t burn even at high cooking temperatures, and it retains all of its healthy properties and brings out the true flavors of the food. Olive oil does not penetrate food during the cooking process as readily as some other types of oils, which results in a lower fat content in the finished dish.
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.
The recipe is included in my cookbook Mint, Cinnamon & Blossom Water, Flavours of Cyprus, Kopiaste as well as in Volume 1 of my e-cookbook.
Kopiaste and Kali Orexi,