Salt Ling Fritters

Salt Ling Fritters

Salt Ling Fritters

These salt ling fritters have the air of the Mediterranean about them, so they seem a little more sophisticated than good old British fish and chips. We can pretend they aren’t fried food at all. They are in fact incredibly healthy!

I have used Scottish cured salt ling instead of the traditional salt cod to make these much admired fishy fritters. Known in Spain as bunyols de bacallà they are a popular item in tapas bars. However, they are best known by their Portuguese counterpart, pastéis de bacalhau. The Portuguese love their salt cod and these are a particular favourite.

These bolinhos de bacalhau, as they are known in Brazil, are extremely popular in the botequims in Rio de Janeiro where they are served as a salty snack to accompany the ice cold beer, obviously the natural and best accompaniment.

If anyone doesn’t like these salt ling fritters I can only think of two reasons (not liking fish doesn’t count as a reason). First of all, it may be that they have had too many badly made versions, too much potato and not enough fish. There is nothing worse than feeling shortchanged from something that is so inexpensive to make and can be very delicious when done well. If the cook is cheap on the fish there is not much point.

The other reason may be that they don’t like beer, or drinking for that matter. The idea itself of drinking ice cold beer with these fritters is enough to tempt your appetite. Beer goes hand in hand with these fishy fritters so if you don’t enjoy that you may not understand their appeal. A dry madeira, or sherry, or crisp white wine would do the trick to. No one goes – ooh I’d love a glass of water with those salt ling fritters.

Salt cod is easier to find than you might think. To buy the Scottish salt ling order it from Jolly’s of Orkney and it will be delivered the next day. If you are in Edinburgh Lupe Pintos sells it, the wonderful Aladdin’s cave that sells all things Spanish, Mexican and American. Your fishmonger, even though they may not stock it regularly, will definitely be able to order it for you.

To accompany the salt ling fritters a wedge of lemon is usually enough, or you could use lime as they do in Rio. A flavoured mayonnaise is always good too (if not traditional) – lemon, garlic, herbs, or smoked  hot paprika even.

The key to a could fritter is that it must have that good amount of fish in it and it must be salty and pungent, hence the ice cold beer to wash it down. And as with all fried food they must be fresh, hot and very crispy on the outside.

Recipe for Salt Ling Fritters


200g salt ling or cod

200g potatoes, peeled and sliced (I used desiree, which are ideal for mashed potatoes)

1 medium sized egg

bunch flat leaf parsley, finely chopped (roughly 1tbsp)

1 clove garlic

black pepper

sea salt

1 litre sunflower or vegetable oil for frying

1 lemon for garnish


Soak the salt fish in a bowl for 18 – 24 hours in the refrigerator. Change the water every 6 hours or so. If you have salt cod it may be thicker in which case you might need to soak it for up to 48 hours. You will be able to feel and see when it has plumped back up to its normal size.

Now simmer the fish in a pot of water with the bay leaf for about 10 – 15 minutes minutes, or until it is very soft. Remove the fish and save the water.

Leave the fish to cool slightly. Meanwhile boil the potatoes in the fish cooking water. This makes sure no flavour is wasted. Cook the potatoes until soft and drain. Now mash them or put them through a food mill.

While the potatoes are cooking prepare the fish by removing any bones and skin. It is a good idea to do this under a cold running tap as this helps to remove the skin. Flake the flesh with a fork in a bowl.

Mix the flaked fish, mashed potatoes, egg, parsley, garlic and some black pepper to produce a thick mixture that will be easy to shape. Check for seasoning and make sure there is enough salt. You want to slightly over season them. Think of how delicious salted chips are.

It is best to leave the whole mixture to cool down before shaping the fritters.

When the mixture has cooled you can leave them rough and plop the mixture into the oil from the spoon. You could also make them into round balls, or shape them into quenelles between two spoons, which is traditional and looks quite smart. I prefer them rougher as you get more crispy edges.

In a large heavy based pot put enough oil in to come 3-4cm up the sides. Heat up the oil to 180˚C and fry the fritters for 3 minutes or until golden brown. You will have to do this in a couple of batches. When ready drain on paper towels and serve as quickly as possible.

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