Seafood Recipes

Salt cod, fava bean and English pea salad. piment d’ espelette

August 4, 2010

Ever since I made the salt cod a few weeks ago, I had this dish brooding in the back of my head. It was honestly the real reason I made the salt cod in the first place. Each spring I always look forward to fresh English (shelling) peas and fava beans. Here in Seattle the English peas seem like they are coming to the end of their stint, which has lasted much longer thanks to this crappy Seattle summer we have been having. I guess the cold(ish) weather has some good in the end.

This was a dish I dreamed up to share with friends. Very good friends at that. It just so happened that Todd and Diane, from WhiteOnRiceCouple fame were in town and they warmly accepted my dinner invitation – along with the lovely Shauna from GlutenFreeGirl. Todd and Diane showed up with two bags full of camera gear. The kind of bags full of gear that most people can only dream of. As we all know, good camera equipment is worth nout if there isn’t skill and talent to back it up. Thankfully that couple has it in droves – which these photographs here clearly show. That’s right, Todd and Diane were gracious enough to snap more than a few pictures of the food from that night, whilst I was busy mixing and chopping. All of the fantastic photography you see in this post is from them!

So, zee dish. This is a really simple affair, once you have dealt with those pesky fava beans. Anyone who has cooked with favas’s knows that they are both utterly delicious and a complete and utter time-waste to prep. Fava’s, you see, have two pods. Yes two. And you really need to remove both. The first is that huge, slightly fury, ridiculously soft (come on, I know you have all felt the inside of a fava bean pod and wanted a blanket or underpants made out of it) pod that holds all the beans. Getting this pod off requires the same technique as removing an English pea pod – only on a larger scale.Once this pod is off, you want to blanch the buggers for a couple of minutes, cool in an ice bath, you can take the second pod off.

How important is it to remove the second pod? Well.. it depends how ghetto you are… Sometimes, when I feel like a total slacker, I leave the pods on the small ones. When the fava beans get larger this second pod gets tougher. The biggest problem I have with the second/inner pod however is the color of it. It somewhat of a muted gray/green, and really doesn’t look that appetizing at all. When I was a wee lad growing up in Blighty my parents would often cook fava beans (they are called broad beans in the UK) and I would never want to eat them. It was simply because they looked nasty, thanks to my parents not removing the second pod. Thankfully they weren’t as slack with their parenting as they were their fava bean prep however..

So the moral of the story is to remove the inner pod from each bean. It is a pain, but once in a rhythm can happen pretty fast. My suggestion is to turn on an episode of Graham Norton, have a good laugh, and peel the inner pods in front of the telly.

To remove that inner pod, you want to pinch the fat end with your thumb fingernail, until you make a cut in it – then just squeeze the lovely bright green vivacious bean out.

The dish is nothing more but a mix of really great ingredients – which is honestly how I love my summer food to be. Keep it simple, use top shelf ingredients, and left bright flavors come through with bells on. The fava beans are tossed here with some cooked English peas, cooked salt cod that has been flaked, summer savory and piment d’ espelette. A little sherry vinegar and olive oil, and a good pinch of salt and pepper, and this dish is ready for the table.

Now, as mentioned this is all about the ingredients. Salt cod can come in many forms, and a lot of it is pretty disgusting. You want to either make your own (which is dead easy), or get it from a really good source – most likely a specialty store of European descent. Here are my top tips for dealing with salt cod:

Salt cod buying and prep tips:

  1. Avoid the salt cod sold in boxes. If that is all you have access to, don’t use it. It is nasty
  2. Salt cod should be white in color, not yellow
  3. If it smells nasty, it is nasty (such a good rule of life I think..)
  4. If it smells nasty, it is going to taste even more nasty when cooked
  5. When buying salt cod, try to find whole sides that a store will cut for you. You want to get a piece from the thickest section of the fish
  6. Salt cod needs to be soaked in cold water before you can use it for 24 hours. Change the water a few times during this soaking (keep in the fridge during soaking)
  7. Salt cod can be sliced thinly and eaten raw, but personally I prefer it cooked
  8. To cook – heat up a pan, add olive oil. Gently cook the fish skin side down for a minute, then add a little water to the pan (1/4cup or so). Cover, and gently simmer until cooked through, and the fish flakes
  9. Remember to remove the bones before serving
  10. I like to flake the fish, and serve it mixed with something – like fava beans!

Piment d’ Espelette is a smoked paprika from the Basque region of France. It’s closest comparison is Spanish sweet smoked paprika, however the two are different. I find the Espelette has more complex flavor, and has little heat to it. It can be ordered online through specialty retailers. My personal favorite is from here – a local Seattle company, making a really great range of smoked paprika’s.

The herb summer savory in the dish gives a light, almost citrus note to the dish, but backs it up more robust flavors, somewhat akin to a very bright sharp thyme.

Salt cod, fava bean and English pea salad recipe

1/2lb salt cod

a couple of large handfuls of fava bean pods

a good handful of english pea’s, in their pods

1 small bunch of summer savory, or a mix of parsley/basil/mint

zest of 1 lemon

really good olive oil

really good sherry vinegar

salt salt

pinch of piment d’ espelette (to taste)

Soak the salt cod in cold water for 24hours. Change the water a couple of times during soaking. If the piece of salt cod you have is really thin, reduce time to 12hours.

Remove the fava beans from their large pod. Get a large pot of water boiling. Fill the sink with water and ice. Put the fava beans in a strainer, and put this strainer in to the pot of boiling water. Boil the beans for two minutes. Take the strainer out of the boiling water, and plunge it in to the ice cold water.

Do the same for the English peas.

Once the fava beans are cold, drain them in to a clean strainer. Sit in front of the telly, watch some trash TV (optional, but I consider important) and peel that second pod off all the fava beans. Do this by pinching the fat end with your thumb nail, then squeezing out the bean. Discard the pods, or eat them yourself.. your choice.

The fava’s and peas can be prepped up to 24hours ahead, and stored covered in the fridge.

Chop the summer savory leaves relatively coarsely.

Get a small pan warm over a medium heat. Add some olive oil, and when the oil is hot put the drained salt cod in there. Let it cook for a minute or two, then add about 1/4 cup of water to the pan. Cover, and gently simmer until the cod is just cooked through.

Let the fish cool, and flake apart with your fingers, discarding any bones.

In a large bowl, toss the fava beans and English peas together. Add in the chopped summer savory, and a little lemon zest. Add a splash of sherry vinegar, and a good glug of olive oil. Add the salt cod to the dish. Gently fold the cod in, so as not to break up the fish any more. Season with salt, pepper, and piment d’ espelette to taste.

Add more olive oil as needed – I like this dish reasonably oily.

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  • Kate @ Savour Fare August 4, 2010 at 11:34 pm

    This looks fantastic — I love the idea of the sweet peas with the salty fish. Have you thought about making “salt cod” with another fish? I try to only buy fish I find from sustainable sources, and sadly, this rarely includes cod, but I’m wondering if salt curing could be used on another fish – even the dreaded tilapia.

  • diane and todd August 4, 2010 at 11:36 pm

    This dish was so amazing, there wasn’t one bite left, we know cause we all literally licked the bowl!
    thank you again for such an amazing dinner and for this dish. It definitely was a labor of love, just for the work on the fava beans alone!
    You rock, our friend, you rock.

  • Chez Us August 5, 2010 at 12:31 am

    Mat, beautiful dish as always. I did not get a chance to salt any cod, yet, the market was low on it and what was there was not that sexy. Maybe this weekend. Definitely will have to try out this dish with the end product – sounds amazing!

    On a side note, I completely know how you feel about the fava – it is a labor of love! Lenny being from Portuguese family grew up on favas (and salt cod). His family never removed the inner pod (they are poor is his reasoning – you don’t toss food out) and he feels that I should do the same. We are not rich nor ghetto but I definitely love the taste of the fava without the inner pod. So I labor over them, sweet sweet labor of love.

  • shauna August 5, 2010 at 4:21 am

    I was so freaking lucky to be there, to be with all of you, and eat this delicious salad. May I have more, please?

  • Koek! August 5, 2010 at 9:32 am

    Oh wow this looks GORGEOUS. I’m going to try it with haddock…

  • Dana August 5, 2010 at 3:13 pm

    I love favas and peas together. I make an appetizer dish with those guys and haloumi (which I was introduced to in the UK), lots of lemon and mint. I actually don’t mind the fava process. There are certainly kitchen tasks that I hate (grating cheese etc) but I find favas kind of meditative. Invite me next time! I can just pick around the cod. 🙂

  • Elizabeth August 5, 2010 at 4:26 pm

    Beautiful dish and photos! I do love fava beans and don’t even mind the peeling of the inner pod. I don’t bother blanching it though, i find it comes off just as easily without it, but it does take a fair amount of time to do it! Well worth it in my opinion. I’ve never had the chance to eat salt cod, but I’ve always wanted to. I know what dish I’ll be making as soon as I can find a decent piece!

  • Aran August 7, 2010 at 4:35 pm

    Matt, you know this has my name written all over it. will definitely make it when i go home and have great salted cod available there. loving this.

  • Brooke@foodwoolf August 10, 2010 at 3:06 pm

    Favas PLUS salt cod? It really doesn’t get better than that.

    I agree, the prep for favas really is ridiculous, but totally worth it. I actually think all that time shelling the things make them taste better. Because you appreciate each bite all the more. So glad you got to spend time with T&D. I feel lucky I’m in the same state as them and can run to the OC whenever my well of joy has run dry. They truly are some of the greatest people around. As are you.

    Can’t wait to make it up your way for a great big dose of Matt W.! And favas and salt cod if the season’s timing is right!

  • Anne Hartley August 10, 2010 at 5:26 pm

    I grew up in England, and loved it when broad beans were available. Had lots of them, and they seemed to go well with sliced carrots, However, I had never heard about the second peeling. Not Ever. The only broad beans I can get now are dried. I have tried growing them without much success. The dried beans are much tougher, so I am going to see if I can peel those after soaking! Thanks for the info!

  • G. August 10, 2010 at 8:05 pm

    i spent an entire afternoon preparing fava beans from the market a few weeks back, but it was all worth it in the end! incredible salad, matt!

  • El August 11, 2010 at 7:21 pm

    Beautiful dish- love it!

  • hank August 17, 2010 at 2:48 am

    Uh, yes. Always, always always remove the inner pod on a fava. Unless, of course, you are really into explosive flatulence. But then again, who isn’t? 😉

    I can’t freakin’ believe you STILL have favas and peas. In August. And i thought Sacramento was having a cold summer — we’ve only had 6 days over 100 degrees, and we’re supposed to get 30+

  • matt August 17, 2010 at 1:53 pm

    hank- the whole basis of my home country sense of humor is farting 🙂 The peas were coming to the end, but fava’s are still going strong at the market. What can I say, we have had a pretty crappy summer here 🙁