Weekend brunches have long been a part of our family tradition. Saturday mornings were lazy and long, and inevitably we would always eat late. On Sunday mornings my mother and her three daughters would go to church, and by the time we came home, daddy would have laid out the table with a brunch feast. Platters of saltfish buljol, ripe avocadoes, hard-boiled eggs, salads, and my mother would finish off by frying of the bakes to go with the buljol.
Let me explain. Buljol is a way of cooking saltfish - salted cod to be exact - which I will explain in a moment, and bakes are... well, difficult to describe, but as anyone who has every been to Trinidad and eaten shark and bake (or bake and shark, there's a national debate as to which way around it should be said!), they are heavenly to eat. A bake is a small fist-sized round ball of dough (made with plain flour, water and yeast and left to rise before frying), which is then fried so that it rises to leave a convenient air-pocket inside, and when you slice through you can deposit your buljol and sides and devour. You can find a recipe for fried bakes here, but if you don't go the whole hog, I often serve warmed pittas or french bread with the buljol.
I've written before about bringing memories into my kitchen, when I posted a Martiniquan fish stew recipe (courtbouillon de poisson) , and today I want to talk about saltfish, and making it in 3 different ways for brunch.
Buljol - the original brunch dish from my childhood to now
and my two variations:
Saltfish & Goats Cheese pies
To make enough to serve 6-8 people buy 2 packets of saltfish - I buy mine in Shepherds Bush Market, but notice that you can also find it in Tesco's in the "World" or "Ethnic" Food Sections, but I am fairly sure this depends on the location of your store if you get my drift. I am giving the ingredients list to make all 3 options, as I quite like serving them together, which is always a brunch-crowd-pleaser.
You will also need
20 Cherry tomatoes
3 spring onions
Juice of 3 limes
Optional - A few sprigs of coriander for garnish
3 ripe tomatoes (for buljol)
1 white onion
Juice of 3 limes
Optional - thinly sliced and then cubed 1/4 scotch bonnet pepper (may be best to leave on the side!)
Saltfish and Goats Cheese pies
1 packet of Goats Cheese
You need to plan and prepare at least 1 day in advance in order to soak your saltfish. On the following day, the preparation takes no more than 15 minutes, plus cooking time for the pies.
You can buy salted pollack, but I prefer and am used to salted cod fish - the difference in cost is really pence. Buy skinless and boneless saltfish, otherwise the bones are really tiny, and it is so frustrating trying to peel the skin off once it has been salt-dried.
Use a large dish with a lid, and put both packets of saltfish into the bowl, pour boiling water over until the fish is covered, place the lid on top and leave overnight to soak so that much of the excess salt comes out. First thing in the morning, empty the salty water out, and cover again with boiling water and leave it for an hour. Tip the water out and using two forks, flake the saltfish by combing through. Divide into 2 portions if making the ceviche & buljol.
For the ceviche -
Simply squeeze three limes into the saltfish, add finely chopped spring onion and quartered cherry tomatoes. Stir through, place in a serving bowl and cover with clingfilm and leave in the fridge until ready to serve. Could. Not. Be. Easier.
For the buljol -
Slice the onion into thin semi-circles and soften in a tablespoon of vegetable oil (or cooking oil of your choice) in a frying pan. Add the saltfish, and also add the juice of 3 limes. Stir well on a low-medium heat. Slice the tomatoes into thin wedges, and add to the frying pan, continue to stir until the mixture is slightly orange as below. Serve hot. If you like very spicy food, you may add the scotch bonnet pepper, but as with any other condiment, once added, you can't take it away, and too much could spoil the dish. It may be better to serve the pepper on the side, and let brunchers decide how brave they are feeling!
For the pies - (these were not my original brunch invention, but done with the leftover buljol from the weekend today)
Crumble a block of goats cheese into the buljol and stir through. Cut the pastry into squares (you choose how large you want your pies - main course or canapé sized) and with the back of a teaspoon smooth a dollop of tomato puree on the pastry evenly. Spoon the goats cheese and buljol mixture onto one half of the pastry and fold over, rolling the sides. Bake in the oven heated at 220' for 10-15 minutes (depending on whether fan assisted or not) or until golden. Allow to cool slightly before serving.
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