“Chickpeas and Salt Cod is an Italian classic and it’s one of our
favourite winter dishes – good the first day, even better the next.”
~ Charlie Lewis & Chiara de Iulis Pepe
Golden onions sliced
Clove of garlic
Passata di pomodoro
Extra virgin Olive Oil
Soak the salt cod in a large container for minimum 24 hours. Change the water a minimum of 4 times. The cod is ready when the cod against your tongue is clean (not salty, salty) and the water pure. The morning before the night after is usually good timing. Likewise with you chickpeas, they will double in size so allow enough water to allow swelling. Soak over night 12 -18 hours.
Drain chickpeas and add to a saucepan, allow 1/3 more water to cover. Crush garlic clove with the the flat of your knife or the palm of your fist and add to water with 2 bay leaves. Bring the chickpeas to a simmer and then turn to lowest heat. Skim off the scum/foam and then leave to lightly bubble for 2-3 hours. You will need to add more water at some point, do not let it go dry (no seasoning at this point). The chickpeas usually take 3 hours to cook – I like a soft bite. Taste after 2 hours and so on.
Once cooked, turn off and leave in residual water. I like the cooking liquid to just be covering the chickpeas by the end. Put passata in a small saucepan with olive oil and reduce by 1/3 for 20 minutes at a light bubble – this can be prepared in advance.
Slice the onions and fry 3/4’s of them on a low heat with oil. A heavy bottomed pan is best for this, after 15/20 minutes when they start to turn golden, add a decent splash of white wine or cider vinegar, turn up the heat and allow all the liquid to evaporate for a few minutes and then turn the heat off. Add the onions and reduced passata to the chickpeas and turn the heat on to low. As the chickpeas, onions and passata start their alchemy, place the remaining onion, pepper corns, bay leaf and chopped potato to a pan, add the salt cod and fill with milk to cover. Put on a low heat and wait for it to simmer, once simmering it needs 2/3 minutes until the flakes of cod start to fall away. Cook in batches if need be.
Remove cod and leave to cool before flaking and removing bones. Turn pan on with water and any excess chickpea water to cook pasta. Place a handful of the cod to fill half a pestle and mortar and add the rest with chopped parsley to the chickpeas and turn the heat off. Stir in and moisten with a gulp of olive oil, season with salt and pepper. Taste to adjust salt and leave to rest. Add the pasta to the broiling salter water – this will take around 14 minutes to cook.
Meanwhile, to make the brandade, add a handful of the diced potato from the cooking milk to the pestle and mortar and start to bash and stir, when you have a chunky paste, add a ladle of milk and continue to work. As it comes together, start to pour a gentle stream of olive oil like you’re making mayonnaise and continue to work with the pestle. When you have achieved your desired texture, add a squeeze of lemon and a twist of pepper. Potato will fill it out, the milk will make it creamy and the olive oil, silky shiny and delicious.
Remove the cooked pasta and add to the chickpeas with slotted spoon and turn the head up, you can ladle some of the pasta water back if it’s looking too dry, I like to move the pan in a circular movement to combine the pasta and chickpeas especially if you need to combine pasta water – this movement will help the starchy pasta amalgamate. Add more oil until its glossy and unctuous and serve with slice of bruschetta bathes in brandade.