Mercedes' Pimientos del piquillo rellenos de bacalao


For the stuffed peppers

  • 24 hours before cooking, put the flaked salt cod into cold water, covered completely. Change the water every 6 hours.

  • Heat 6 tbsp olive oil in a pan and cook the onion. Once softened add the garlic and cook until transparent, not golden. This will take up to 10 minutes

  • While the onions cook, drain the cod (saving the water) and pad between kitchen towels to dry completely (important that it’s totally dry).

  • Add the cod to the onions, adding a dash more olive oil.

  • Fry for 5 minutes and add 1 tbsp flour.

  • Keep cooking for 5 minutes as it thickens and add more milk and another tbsp of flour. It should be a kind of fish béchamel, keep adding more milk if too sticky. Cook for a further 5 minutes until the taste of flour has gone completely and it’s a loose, sticky béchamel consistency. It will stop sticking to the pan.

  • Lay the peppers out on a tray or platter ready to stuff.

  • Spoon about a tbsp into each pepper and secure the top by threading a tooth pick through

  • Fill a deep frying pan with olive oil about 1 inch deep

  • Prepare a flat plate of flour and whisk two eggs together in a bowl

  • When the oil is frying hot (a breadcrumb sizzles when dropped in) begin to dip each pepper first in flour and then in egg and drop into the hot oil.

  • Fry on each side until golden

  • With a slotted spoon, transfer onto a plate with kitchen towel to remove all excess oil

For the sauce

Fry the onion in olive oil until browned slightly and fry off the garlic

  • Add 4 of the pimento peppers and the chopped red pepper

  • Add the juice from the jar of peppers and cook for 10 minutes until the peppers are soft and onions sweet and brown

  • Add the onion and pepper mix to a blender with the cream and fish stock

Add the stuffed peppers to a pan with the sauce and cook for 30 minutes before serving with a sprinkle of parsley and ideally from a dish emblazoned with your own name (!)

An unassuming lift opened onto a kaleidoscopic pattern-on-pattern-on-pattern apartment where a teeny weeny woman of great character was poised to make Pimientos del pico rellenos de bacalao with us, a dish from her childhood in Northern Spain where peppers are a big deal.

Mercedes uses sweet piquillo peppers from a jar because it’s tastier than doing it herself and she’s busy. During our cooking session she laid each filled pepper on a patterned tray ready to shallow fry but got caught up in the drama of the photo shoot. With the tray held high above her head and laughing heavily she overbalanced. All the stuffed peppers fell down onto table and floor. She was highly amused, we retrieved them and they all went on to be fried, submerged in the creamy salsa and served to a table of 8 women.

Serves 8-10


For the stuffed peppers

600g salted cod, flaked by hand into small pieces

600g white onion finely diced

2 cloves garlic

2 tbsp flour

½ pint of milk

6 tbsp olive oil

small bunch of parsley

24 small sweet peppers from a jar (about 2/3 jars)

For the sauce

4 onions, finely diced

1 garlic clove

1 red pepper finely chopped

4 pimentos del pico

Juice from the jar of peppers

100ml cream

750ml fish stock