Bakaliaros skordalia is a traditional Greek dish that combines salted codfish fritters with garlic mashed potatoes. The deliciousness of this simple plate comes from the unique flavor and texture of the codfish due to the salting procedure. A thin, crunchy crust outside and sweet, creamy, and lightly fishy taste inside combined with velvet garlic mashed potatoes that adds a bright and contrasting pop. Forget all the fish fritters you’ve eaten till today and just do yourself a favor and go make them.
WHERE CAN I PURCHASE SALTED COD?
This kind of fish is easy to find in the Mediterranean countries but it could be more difficult overseas.
Visit your local Greek, Italian, Spanish delicatessen store and ask for salted cod because sometimes it is hiding behind the counter. Purchase the best piece of cod ideally from a center-cut where the fish is thickest and more luscious.
I CANNOT FIND SALTED COD. CAN I STILL MAKE THIS RECIPE?
Yes, you can. If you cannot find codfish fillets, purchase haddock, flounder, halibut or pollock and it will work pretty well. Of course, you won’t get the unique salty flavor from the cod but, hey, homemade fish fritters are always delicious and a perfect addition to your table.
ORIGINS OF SALTED COD
Not interested in Mediterranean Greek food history? No problem. Jump to Recipe
Fish is a staple meaning that it constitutes a dominant portion (5-6 portions weekly) of the Mediterranean way of eating. Well, you see a coastline of almost 16.000km is a constant provider of fresh fish and seafood.
What about people living on the mainland? Especially, those up in mountains didn’t have the luxury of enjoying fresh fish. The motorcar arrived in the country after WWII and even then the national road network was in crappy condition, if at all. Therefore, fishermen used to preserve their catch by salting and this procedure gave enough time to transport and sell it beyond their land.
Salted codfish was imported mostly from the North Atlantic due to the lack of abundance in the Mediterranean Basin. It keeps its flavor and nutritional properties for a very long time and it was extremely convenient to stock a generous quantity just to spend the winter. Back then, no refrigerators, obviously. These are the main reasons why salted codfish was extremely well-known in Mediterranean countries.
From the French “Morue”, the Spanish “Bacalao”, the Italian “Baccalà”, the Portuguese “Bacalhau” and the Greek “Bakaliaros”, there is a huge variety of recipes according to the season, the local products, and the traditional cooking techniques.
In Greece, the consumption of salted codfish is traced all the way back to the 15th century and it was a favorite staple for Greek cuisine. One of the most popular this recipe called “Bakaliaros Skordalia”. Yeah, I know. It’s all Greek to you. Bakaliaros=cod, skordalia=garlic mashed potatoes.
Bakaliaros skordalia is a traditional recipe that is mainly related to two important days (for religious and national reasons) of the year: the Feast of the Annunciation and the Greek Independence day, both occasions on the 25th of March (double celebration) and Palm Sunday. Eating fish is prohibited during Greek Easter Fasting except for these two days and Greeks definitely know how to take deliciously advantage of these exceptions.
That being said, roll up your sleeves, and let’s cook that delicious fish the Greek way.
Simply put, soak the cod in water for 24 to 48 hours. Then this fish is coated in flour and batter, fried in olive oil, and served with garlic mashed potatoes. It is an easy recipe and the only tricky part is the batter that has to stick evenly to the cod and form a thin, crunchy layer. The thinner the better. The perfect codfish fritter is crunchy on the outside and smooth, melting-into-your-mouth inside. It sounds challenging but following my 2-3 tricks below you will nail it, for sure.
THE SALTED COD
The salted cod is soaked in water for at least 24 hours, preferably 48, before cooking. This is necessary to leach out the salt otherwise the cod will be too salty and most likely inedible. After 24 hours in the water, you may taste the fish and check its saltiness. Do not afraid to eat it because it isn’t raw. The salt has already cooked the fish. Taste some. If it is too salty for your taste then give it more time.
Don’t forget to change the water 3-4 times per day.
The most important step of the recipe. The ingredients are a little peculiar because I know that beer in a traditional Greek recipe sounds ridiculous. Nevertheless, I urge you to follow my recipe if you want a thin, airy, and crunchy crust.
Now it’s time for the big trick. Keep in mind one word towards success. Cold. The batter should be cold because that’s how it sticks evenly on the fish and it gives you crunchy and not the soggy crust. That being said, the beer should be cold and I add 2 ice cubes in the batter while I make the garlic mashed potatoes and drop the batter’s temperature even more. That’s it. Simple as that!
FRYING THE CODFISH
Use olive oil. Do I have to explain why I use olive oil? Hello? Greek. Mediterranean food. Thank you. We need the olive oil hot before we place the coated cod carefully into the hot oil. Don’t overcrowd the pan otherwise the fish will boil instead of frying. Soggy fritters … yikes!
THE GARLIC MASHED POTATOES
I will be honest here! If you like garlic this mashed potato recipe will stick to your brain forever. It is so easy to make and sooo good. If not that much, either add a little just for the fun of it or skip it altogether. Not that awesome “garlic kick” here but it is quite good even without.
Therefore, you may add as much garlic as you want. 3 gloves for 1 pound (½ kg) potatoes are the right balance but, hey, this is my taste buds speaking here. So, adjust accordingly.
For those who cannot tolerate raw garlic but love its taste, make an additional step and roast the garlic before you mix it.
Cover leftovers with cling wrap and place in the fridge for up to 1 week.
MY SALTED CODFISH FRITTERS WITH GARLIC MASHED POTATOES ARE READY! NOW, WHAT?
Spread some chives or spring onion or parsley and serve them as hot as you can. Hot fritters are so delightful. The crust will get soggy more or less in one hour. Personally, I like it even with a soggy crust. Weird, I know but I find them so tasteful that I don’t care about the texture at all.
Serving it with an Assyrtico white wine is the perfect match. If you cannot find it anywhere don’t worry. A Sauvignon Blanc with zingy flavors will enhance the garlic mashed potatoes and take this dish to another level. Highly recommended.
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Salted codfish fritters with garlic mashed potatoes
- 3pounds (1 ½ kg) salted cod or salted cod fillets, skinless
- Flour for dredging
- Olive oil for frying
- 1 ¾cups (250g) all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 ⅓ cups 330ml beer, cold
- Salt, pepper
The garlic mashed potatoes
- 1 pound 1/2kg russet or baby potatoes, skins on
- 1/2cup (120ml) olive oil
- 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
- ½ lemon, the juice
- 3-6 cloves garlic, minced
- Salt, freshly ground pepper
- Chopped spring onions for topping
PREPARE THE SALTED COD
- Rinse the salted cod to remove salt, place in a bowl and cover with water. Place in the fridge. Drain and change the water every 4 hours for at least 24 hours before preparing. Taste to check the salt.*
- Drain the cod and use paper towel to pat dry. Remove the skin and the bones (if any) and cut into even portions about 2 inches (5cm). Season with pepper and set aside.
PREPARE THE GARLIC MASHED POTATOES
- Meanwhile, in a pot with salted water place the potatoes (skins on). Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer and cover. Boil until the potatoes are fork-tender.
- Drain and allow the potatoes to cool. Remove the skin.
- Pass through a potato ricer or a hand potato masher or a food mill. Add your minced garlic and mix with a fork. Pour gradually olive oil while stirring. Add lemon juice, white vinegar and season to taste. Cover with cling wrap and set aside.
PREPARE THE BATTER
- In a bowl add all your dry ingredients and mix with a fork. Add gradually the beer and whisk until you get a thick batter. Add two ice cubes. Place the bowl into the fridge for at least 15 minutes. Stir 2-3 times.
MAKE THE FRITTERS
- In a small bowl with flour, dredge one fritter in the flour until completely coated. Shake gently to remove the excess flour. Dip the cod into the batter, coat it well and just let the excess batter drip off (don’t shake it).
- In a deep frying pan heat the olive oil (about 2 inches deep) to high heat. Dip a teaspoon of batter to test the oil. It should be hot but not too hot to smoking or splattering.
- Dip carefully the cod fillets in the batter. Fry in batches by adjusting the heat if necessary. Don’t overcrowd the pan. Fry both sides until golden brown, about 5-8 minutes for each fritter. The time depends on the fritter’s size. Place the fried fillets on a platter covered in paper towels.
- Serve them hot with the garlic mashed potatoes. Add pepper and chopped spring onion, chives or parsley (optional).
Note: This post originally appeared on 30 days of Greek food in 2017. It has recently been updated with new photos and content so that the readers will benefit and enjoy it even more!