PRESERVING FISH OR SHELLFISH IN OLIVE OIL
One of Altamiras’s shortest recipes is “to preserve fish”. In just a couple of lines he describes how to fry and submerge it in olive oil, with only one proviso, that fish should never be floured before frying to help keep the oil clean. A simple enough instruction, it nonetheless provokes the book’s longest back-story, an account of a quarrel with visiting friary cooks who try to insist on flouring salt-cod before frying it. Today, we’re used to professionally canned seafood in olive oil as a gourmet product, but we don’t generally preserve fish at home. For the friars it was clearly an everyday practice in the XVIIIth century and probably for shellfish too: Joan Bagués, Franciscan cook at Gerona hospital, wrote up recipes for squid, cuttlefish and lobster in 1775. However, an olive oil bath gives brilliant, easy, healthy fast-food and it’s also a handy fallback if you have no electricity: steamed mussels or fried fish fillets flavoured with bay leaves or fresh green garlic make a patient salad or grazing food, or even fillings for bocadillos. And like Altamiras you can also recycle your flour-free oil in numerous ways – especially when you have more fish to fry.