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Tuesday, January 31, 2012


Photo: by Ernst Vikne 
OCast vacalao, L. Gadus morhua, ME cod(e)lyng, Eng. cod. The Middle English should not be confused with ling (Sp adadejo). Codfish is edible. It inhabits northern seas, especially in the Atlantic. It is usually salted and dried and widely used as food. In medieval times, due to the number of fish days prescribed by the Roman Catholic Church, it was a basic food item consumed in England, Portugal and many areas in Castile. 

One thing people of medieval times were saved from was cod-liver oil, obtained by allowing the livers to decompose. Its medicinal value was not discovered until 1782 and it was not used as an oral medicine until a Philadelphia physician put it to use in 1885. See pescado

[Curye. 1985:179; ES: Sorrenti. Apr 4, 02; Fernández Muníz. 1994:187; and Tapiello. 1994:135]

For 4 persons


Codfish with a 13th C Vinaigrette
Photo by: Lord-Williams
1 lb codfish

½  c olive oil
½ c vinegar
1 garlic clove mashed
1 tbsp parsley or cilantro
½ tsp oregano
½ tsp thyme
½ tsp basil

Pear Syrup
2 pears
1 cinnamon stick
¾ c honey
¼ c lemon juice or grape marmalade


Boil, bake or fry codfish. Serve with a vinaigrette 

Pear Syrup Digestive Drink
Photo by: Lord-Williams
For the Sauce

Combine all the ingredients and blend in a food processor.

For the Syrup

Benavides-Barajas explains that the syrup is drunk to facilitate digestion of this type of fish. It is like sherbet being served as a palate cleanser between courses.  For the syrup, peel the pears, quarter them and remove the core and seeds. Boil them in water with a cinnamon stick until tender. Discard water and put the pulp through a potato masher over the saucepan. Add the honey and vinegar and heat until all is blended and has the consistency of syrup. Discard the cinnamon stick and let cool. Serve lukewarm in sherbet glasses after the fish is consumed and before the next course.


  1. Bacalao is one of the institutions of Spanish and even more Portuguese Cuisine, and this pear syrup is quite a novelty for me. I can imagine some kind of digestive was necessary when elaboration or quality were not very raffinate, but it is completely unusual nowadays, so unusual the idea is indeed quite modern!
    Bacalao is in Spain and Portugal the equivalent of herrings in northern Europe. Basque fishermen went as far as Norway and Greeenland and, after the discovery of America, to Newfoundland. The most common way of preserving cod in Spain and Portugal is salting, but they sell also dried cod in Italy (stocafisso, stockfish), which in my opinion is very much inferior (and hardly eatable for our tastes). Curiously, in Britain they eat it fresh, the famous fish and chips (I mus say that the batter some times is so heavy and greasy it ruins the fish).
    In Spain the champions of bacalao cooking are the basques, not only due to the fishing tradition. During the Carlist war in the XIX century, Bilbao (a liberal town) was besieged by the carlist, and the population didn't starve because there were big stocks of salted cod in the harbour warehoses. To avoid getting bored they invented a lot of recipes. So they say, but in Portugal they were not besiged and invented even more dishes, so bacalhau is the national food.
    I imagine recipes with "New World" ingredients are not very medieval in their origins, but excepting chili, what chances have the "pil pil", "ajoarriero" or "brandada"?

  2. As Portugal does not enter into “Spanish Cuisine,” I avoided mentioning that there is a traditional saying that in order for a Portuguese maiden to marry she must know how to cook 40 different dishes of codfish. We had a Portuguese maid, who was 18 years old and came from Portugal to live with us in Madrid. When we found her mother had not taught her that or anything else we sent her back for revision!

    The Basques and the Portuguese indeed are the connoisseurs of codfish recipes. As for the “New World” we shall have to leave this up to our “New World” friends who are currently on summer vacation for their “Pacific-ly” fishy comments !

  3. I added this pear syrup, which is delicious, cause I find the ice cold sherbet a bit snobbish for me in the middle of winter! I sipped this warm glass as we waited for the butler to change plates. It was very pleasant especially because I was the butler. . . - jajaja!