In the streets of Manaus, Raphael took me to the Eduardo Ribeiro Fair and what a huge variety of local and unusual fish there was. Raphael took me to meet Wigson, who serves a really tasty street food dish made from the biggest freshwater fish in the world. Pirarucu, which is the Amazonian cod and can reach to six feet long and weigh up to 200 kilos. Wigson creates a street food dish called pirarucu com casaca that translates to 'cod in a coat'. The cod is salted and served with fried plantains, potatoes, eggs, onions, peppers, parsley, cassava flour, sweet potatoes and coconut milk. The salt cod is left to soak in water for several days to get all the salt off, and then is cooked and put on an oven tray as a base. All other ingredients are sprinkled on top, mixed and baked. Wigson sells around 50 portions a day.
Wigson then tells me that the best bit of the fish to eat is the tongue. It is said to have medicinal qualities; when dried and combined with guarana bark, which is grated and mixed with water. It is given to kill intestinal worms, YUM ;)
It's the use of salted fish in that dish that intrigues me, and I'll be using that method in my very own dish.
My salt cod and potatoes
- 500g salt cod
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 litre milk
- 2 litres chicken stock
- 500 grams medium-sized waxy potatoes
- Olive oil
- 2 onions, peeled and thinly sliced
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
- 150g pitted good quality green olives
- Small handful capers
- 3 roasted red peppers (from a jar), sliced 1cm thick
- Sea salt and black pepper
- 3 soft boiled eggs, peeled and halved
- Small bunch parsley, chopped
Rinse the salt cod under running water for 10 minutes then place in a container and cover with cold water. Leave to soak overnight, changing the water 2 to 3 times throughout soaking.
The next day, drain the cod, place it in a saucepan with the bay leaf and cover with the milk. Bring to the boil, cook for 2 to 3 minutes then remove from the heat and leave to cool for 1 hour.
Drain and discard the bay leaf and flake the cod, discarding any bones. Meanwhile bring the chicken stock to the boil in a large pan, add the potatoes and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes until just soft.
Drain and leave to cool then peel and cut into 1cm thick slices. Preheat the oven to 200Cor 400F. Heat a little olive oil in a large, heavy-based pan, add the onions and garlic and cook for 5 minutes until soft.
Add the potatoes and fry for 3 to 4 minutes until golden. Add the red peppers, capers, olives then remove from the heat and carefully stir through the cod. Season to taste then spoon into a large baking dish.
Bake for 15 to 20 minutes then remove from the oven and serve topped with the soft boiled eggs and a sprinkle of chopped parsley.