Baccalà Mantecato

October 5, 2011



My friend Lizzie and I recently went to check out the new menu at Polpetto and fell head over heels for a blob of salt cod whippy fun called Baccalà Mantecato. The cod had been transformed into a very light, mousse-like paste and we enjoyed trying and failing to guess how it had been made. The revelation was that it had been beaten with oil, in the same way as one would make mayonnaise. “It’s very labour intensive” we were warned but on holiday in Spain with so much salt cod at our fingertips we just couldn’t resist having a go.

We bought pre-prepped fish to skip the soaking/water-changing faff part then pounded it up in a pestle and mortar with garlic and parsley. Oil was added in a steady stream while the other person emulsified furiously then, when we had a good thick mixture, a couple of tablespoons of milk was used to loosen.

It was a lot more rugged than the Polpetto version but the taste was definitely there; smeared on bread it was the perfect sunshine snack.

Baccalà Mantecato

250gr salt cod, rehydrated. I think this involves a lot of soaking and changing of water over several days – we bought ours already soaked.
A pinch of salt – the salt cod once soaked isn’t super salty
1 fat clove of garlic
A handful of parsley
2 tbsp milk
A squeeze of lemon juice

Oil, for emulsifying (we used vegetable as that’s what we had to hand; groundnut would also work but don’t, whatever you do, use extra virgin olive oil as it will overwhelm the cod)

Simmer the cod in water for 5 minutes, then leave to cool. While warm, break into pieces as small as possible.

In a mortar and pestle, pound the garlic and parsley into a paste. Add the cod and mix vigorously. Roll back your sleeves and get pounding and smooshing as someone else dribbles the oil in, until you get a thick, smooth paste. It needs quite a bit of oil. Add just a squeeze of lemon juice, then loosen with the milk – add on tbsp at a time until it is incorporated – if you feel it’s necessary. Serve with toasted bread.

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  • Avatar
    Reply Jeanne @ CookSister! October 5, 2011 at 9:19 am

    Mmmmm, baccala! Sounds crap on paper, tastes like heaven in practice. This looks divine -like the sound of the pre-soaked cod, otherwise it sounds like a huge faff. Where in Spain did you go?

    • Avatar
      Reply Helen October 5, 2011 at 9:40 am

      Thanks Jeanne! We went to L’Escala, in Catalonia. It’s beautiful and the food, fantastic. We go every year!

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    Reply Hanna October 5, 2011 at 10:54 am

    This sounds very interesting, will have to go to Polpetto to try it before I make it myself I think…

    • Avatar
      Reply Helen October 5, 2011 at 10:58 am

      Hi Hanna, yes – do. It will give you an idea of what you’re supposed to be making and you will marvel at the smoothness!!

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    Reply thelittleloaf October 5, 2011 at 1:47 pm

    I love baccala done this way…it’s so incredibly delicious. I was going to buy a big hunk of beautiful salt cod when we were in madrid recently but my boyfriend dissuaded me since we had a long day in 31 degree heat ahead of us before our flight! Do you know where I might be able to get good salt cod in London?

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      Reply Helen October 5, 2011 at 2:34 pm

      Oh no! Denied!! I’ve seen it at markets like Borough and along the South Bank occasionally. I think Google is your best bet for that one unless anyone else has any tips?

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    Reply Su-Lin October 5, 2011 at 9:35 pm

    Some fishmongers have it too. I’ve seen it at caribbean shops too – wonder how the quality varies between places though.

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      Reply Helen October 6, 2011 at 7:48 am

      I see it all the time in African shops in Peckham but the quality isn’t great; I’ve used a lot of it here and never been very impressed. Forgot I’d seen it in fishmongers though. Moxon’s in East Dulwich definitely sell it.

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    Reply Sally - My Custard Pie October 6, 2011 at 6:44 am

    Looks gorgeous (dried fish always sounds – and looks – so unappetising). You’ve transformed it.

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    Reply Ziu October 6, 2011 at 9:51 am

    Good portuguese and italian delicatessens in London sell salted cod. You might need to ask though, as they’re rarely on display.

    I went to Polpo for the first time yesterday and – despite being slighly hesitant due to a number of negative review – loved it! Though I dont know how people manage to blog about it – it was so dark in there! 🙂

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    Reply Maronasc October 6, 2011 at 2:47 pm

    Oooh! In this moment I my mouth is watering! Bacalao (like we name it in Spain) is one of the things that I miss most from Barcelona and every time I have the chance to eat it, I’m so happy! From Salzburg, the nearest place we get to eat it is in Italy… but Holidays are coming and at my mum’s home is always a dish with bacalao waiting for us 🙂

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    Reply Bill October 6, 2011 at 4:55 pm

    Yums. This looks like the same deal as salt cod brandade – and I reckon it’d work just as well as an autumnal comforter as it obviously did in the sunshine. All that salty fishy warmth. ..

    • Avatar
      Reply Helen October 6, 2011 at 4:58 pm

      Yeah, very similar indeedio. And I totally agree!

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    Reply Crumpeats October 9, 2011 at 10:19 am

    I ordered this at Polpetto not having a clue what it was and LOVED it! Look forward to trying it at home. Thanks for the recipe.

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    Reply Giorgio November 9, 2011 at 6:19 pm

    Popular dish in Veneto and great too see it spelled correcty (the accent mark on the a is very important 🙂 )
    I can’t understand though why olive oil shouldn’t be added. The traditional recipe includes olive oil!

    • Avatar
      Reply Helen November 9, 2011 at 7:04 pm

      Would extra virgin not be overwhelming? We just used what we had at the time though

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