Brandada de bacalao or cod brandade is a dip made with flaked cod, garlic and olive oil, a sort of thick fish mayonnaise (see pronunciation here). A copious amount of delicious olive oil is emulsified with the rest of the ingredients thanks to the fish proteins rendering a tasty, smooth, thick paste, perfect for dipping chunks of bread.
Brandada seems to be a variation from typical allioli, the garlic-olive oil emulsion popular in many places of the Iberian Peninsula and also in the south of France. At some moment mashed cod could be added then brandada was invented. Nowadays brandada is typical from the Basque Country to Catalonia (where the name comes from) and the Balearic Islands.
As in most Spanish tapas, the quality of the ingredients, the cod and the olive oil, is key. The salted cod used is thoroughly desalted before being used; desalted cod has already starred in several tapas of the blog like atascaburras and bacalao fritters, being a very popular ingredient in the cuisine from Spain.
- 350g (0,5 pounds) salted cod
- 3 garlic cloves
- 240ml (1/2 cup) extra virgin olive oil (but not too bitter)
- 40ml (1/5 cup) whole milk
- Additional salt if needed
- First of all, desalted the cod by soaking it in water in the fridge, at least 24 hours and changing the water once during the process (see our battered cod recipe for tips on desalting cod).
- Measure the olive oil in a measuring jug and set aside. Measure the milk too, heat it a little and set aside (it should be warm at the time of adding it).
- Peel the garlic cloves and get rid of the central germ. Mash them in a mortar with a pinch of salt. Set aside.
- Pour some olive oil in a pan and heat gently. Stir fry the mashed garlic gloves just a few seconds for them to release their aroma.
- Add the flaked cod to the pan, increase the heat and stir fry until the cod starts to cook and release its juices. Take off the heat.
- Shred the cod with a fork. Then use a hand mixer to make the emulsion: place the appliance in the cod and start adding the olive oil in a thin and steady stream, while mixing, the same as you would do for a mayonnaise.
- Add some milk every now and then and continue adding the oil while mixing. When the oil is used up you must have a thick, flaky, white paste.
- Taste the brandada for seasoning and add some salt if needed. Leave to cool and keep it in the fridge, well covered, for a maximum of 3 days. But it won't last that long.
Tips for perfect brandada de bacalao:
- Brandada with potato to give it more body is found in some places. Brandade purists dismiss it as a shortcut to this dish that has less flavor than the real thing for the only sake of being cheaper. We can only say… follow our potato-less recipe.
- We’re never tired to stress how important it is to use a good quality cod and a reasonably good olive oil. The cod needs to be carefully desalted in a container with fresh water in the fridge.
- Don’t even attempt to make brandada with fresh cod; it simply won’t work. The salting process concentrates the flavor of the fish so that the desalted fish has nothing to do with the fresh kind.
- We beg you: use a fine Spanish extra virgin olive oil of the milder varieties. You won’t regret it.
- Yes, we Spaniards like our garlic. But if you’re not a fan you can skip the mashing of the garlic, stir fry it in the olive oil in slices and discard it leaving the flavoured oil only. The garlic flavor will be a lot milder this way.
- The milk is mostly used in the recipe for thinning the mixture, but it can be skipped if you don’t like it.
We’re big fans of brandada de bacalao or cod brandade. So much so that we could eat it by the spoonful if we got carried away… Serve it with a nice loaf of crusty bread and enjoy it.