Signature Dish: Irène Tolleret’s cod brandade

Irène Tolleret (Renew, FR) shares her recipe for cod brandade, a nod to the important place salt cod has occupied in European cuisines
Illustration by Shirin Begmyradova

By Irène Tolleret

Irène Tolleret (Renew, FR) is a member of the Committee on Regional Development and the Delegation for relations with Japan

16 Jan 2023

Being a Member of the European Parliament means being involved in politics but also being immersed in multiculturalism. The daily exchanges we have with colleagues of different nationalities show how similar our cultures are, especially in the kitchen.

Living as I do in the south of France, near the Mediterranean Sea, fishing is the activity par excellence. So, I decided to share one of my favourite seafood dishes, a recipe for French salt cod and potato brandade. Even though it sometimes has a negative connotation due to its mild taste and the fact that it is often preserved in salt, cod is a prevalent ingredient in southern Europe. In fact, cod is one of the most popular fish in France, Portugal, Italy and Spain and is at the heart of many recipes we share across cultures.

In France, this recipe is called cod brandade, and it is made with purée de pomme de terre – mashed potatoes. It is a dish that seems simple but has the drawback of being very time-consuming due to having to desalt the cod. Every time I prepare this dish, I have to be really patient and meticulous.

I also chose this recipe because it reminds of La Méditerranée et le monde méditerranéen à l'époque de Philippe II, an expansive history of the Mediterranean by Fernand Braudel. As documented in the book, cod-fishing was one of the most important economic activities in Europe as early as the Middle Ages. Basque fishermen were some of the first Europeans to discover the rich cod grounds off the coast of North America, and it soon became a staple around the Mediterranean because it was abundant and easy to transport.

As I often say to my colleagues, sharing is caring. That is why I’m sharing this recipe, which is one of my favourite dishes to make for friends in the south of France. Hopefully you and your friends will enjoy it as much as I do.

Ingredients

  • 500 g salt cod fillets
  • 500 g potatoes
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 1 onion
  • 1 small bunch of fresh flat parsley
  • 1 small bunch of chives
  • 150 ml olive oil
  • 1 large knob of butter
  • 100 ml milk

Preparation

  • The day before, desalt the cod fillets by soaking them in a large volume of cold water. Rinse them, change the water and soak them again, do this 2-3 times and leave to soak overnight in cold water.

  • On the day of cooking, preheat your oven to 7-8 (200°C).

  • Peel and cut the potatoes into pieces. Cook them for about 20 minutes in a pot of boiling water. Once the potatoes are cooked, mash them with a sieve, a fork or a potato masher. Heat the milk. Then add a large knob of butter and the heated milk to the mashed potatoes. Whisk your purée vigorously while adding almost all the olive oil (keep a small amount to fry your onions) little by little. Keep your purée warm.

  • Once the purée is completed, drain and rinse your cod fillets and then dry them with a clean cloth. Mince the onion and chop the garlic, chives and flat parsley. Pour the rest of the olive oil in a frying pan, fry the minced onion and chopped garlic, chives and flat parsley in olive oil. As soon as your onions start to become translucent and a little golden, add the cod fillets. Cook over a low heat for a few minutes, crumbling the cod fillets with a spatula.

  • Add your crumbled cod fillets to the mashed potatoes and mix well. Put your cod brandade mixture in a casserole dish and smooth the top with a fork. Put it in the oven for 15 minutes and then remove it from the oven. Serve warm.

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