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Sibenik salt cod fritters with sweet-and-sour vegetables

Recipe from Nino Zoccali's cookbook The Venetian Republic

PREP TIME 30 minutes, plus 48 hours for soaking salt cod and marinating vegetables
COOKING TIME 3 hours 10 minutes

This is a dish inspired by an amazing meal I had at the Michelin-starred restaurant, Pelegrini, in Sibenik, arguably Croatia’s best. Salt cod is commonly eaten in this part of the world, as it is throughout the rest of the Venetian Republic’s territories. Traditionally served as cicchetti (snacks) in a whipped form on crostini or in sandwiches, these little bites are another great option for aperitivo, with the sourness of the vegetables contrastingly beautifully with the fritters.

Sweet-and-sour vegetables

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
230 g (2 cups) finely diced vegetables: (French shallots, celery, carrot and capsicum (pepper))
150 ml (generous ½ cup) white wine vinegar
100 g (½ cup) caster sugar
1 bay leaf
4 black peppercorns

Salt cod fritters

250 g (9 oz) baccala (salt cod)
1 onion, roughly chopped
Milk, to cover the cod
400 g (14 oz) potatoes
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon baking powder
10 g (½ cup) parsley, chopped
1 egg
100 g (⅔ cup) plain flour
500 ml (2 cups) quality vegetable oil, for frying (olive oil can be used as a substitute)
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

To make the sweet-and-sour vegetables, place a large frying pan over medium heat, add the extra virgin olive oil and heat for 1 minute. Add the diced vegetables and sauté for 1 minute. Transfer the vegetables to a medium-sized bowl.

Place the white wine vinegar, sugar, bay leaf and peppercorns in a small pan and bring to the boil, then pour over the diced vegetables. Leave the vegetables to marinate for at least 24 hours before serving.

To make the salt cod fritters, wash the excess salt from the cod and then soak it in cold water in the fridge for 48 hours, changing the water twice each day. This will remove most of the fish’s saltiness. After 48 hours, remove the fish from the water, discard the skin and pat dry with paper towels.

Place the cod and chopped onion in a saucepan, cover with milk and simmer over medium heat for 3 hours. Leave until cool enough to handle, then remove all the salt cod flesh from the bone and discard the onion. 

Meanwhile, place the potatoes in a large saucepan, cover with cold water and cook over low heat until tender. When the potatoes are cool enough to handle, remove the skins and coarsely mash with a potato ricer.

Combine the cooked potatoes, cod, garlic, baking powder, parsley and egg in a mixing bowl and season with salt and pepper. Sift the flour and mix through evenly.

Beat the mixture well, then form into small 20 g (¾ oz) balls and refrigerate for 2 hours to set.

Heat the vegetable oil in a deep pan and over medium heat to 180°C (350°F).

In small batches, fry the cod fritters until golden brown (roughly 3–4 minutes), then remove and drain on paper towels.

To serve, place the marinated vegetables on a serving plate and top with the cod fritters.

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