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Salt Cod Ajo-Arriero with Manchego, Pine Kernels & Black Olives

This is a curious Spanish recipe that is definitely worth trying; it is made almost like an infused mayonnaise, that uses the fish instead of egg. It has a fluffy type of texture and a rich taste. Serve as a plated appetizer or on thin slices of toasted bread as a finger food with the apperitif drink.

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Ingredients:

250 g (8 oz) salt-cod fillet
250 ml (8 fl oz) extra-virgin olive oil
½ head of garlic, trimmed but not skinned
400 ml (13 fl oz) milk
1 ½ leaves of gelatine, or 3 gr (1/8 oz) softened in water

To serve
16 toasted pine-kernels
8-12 black olives
60 gr (2 oz) fresh white cheese, optional
4-cm (11/2-in) thinly cut squares of mature Manchego cheese, rind removed
fresh chives or parsley
baby croutons
a little mild extra-virgin olive oil

Procedure:

  • Soak the salt-cod in water for 24-36 hours, turning every four hours, and replacing the water two to three times. When the salt is removed, skin the fish.

1. Warm the olive oil and the garlic over the lowest heat for 15-20 minutes, remove from the heat and let infuse, (make sure the garlic doesn't surpass a light golden colour)

2. Gently heat the salt-cod in milk for 10-15 minutes. Remove.

3. Soften the gelatine in a cup of cold water, drain it and dissolve it in the warm milk.

4. Purée the salt cod in blender, pour in the milk and then, slowly, beat in the garlic infused olive oil until you have an emulsified puree. Leave to set in a cool place.

5. Serve the ajo-arriero slightly chilled or just below room temperature, spooning it on to each plate and scattering the pine kernels, olives and croûtons over the top.

*If you like, finish with a trace of beaten fresh white cheese and a little mild olive oil. Prop up a square of Manchego vertically against the mixture.

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