This recipe is inspired by one in Honey from a Weed by Patience Gray, which is a timeless book of stories about cooking and eating in Italy and Greece. The Greeks call salt cod or ling bakaliáros. In her recipe, Gray recommends using whole olives, as she says pitted olives spoil the pale colour of the dish. If you use whole olives, make sure whoever eats the dish is aware of them – they can be tooth‑breakers for the unsuspecting diner!
1kg salt cod or ling
1–2 bay leaves
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, sliced
6 potatoes, cut into 1cm slices
A few sprigs of fresh oregano
Freshly ground white pepper
125ml single cream
½ tsp fresh ground nutmeg
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
A handful of parsley leaves, finely chopped
A little chilli oil or extra olive oil
2 hard-boiled eggs, sliced
12 black olives
1 Soak the salt cod in cold water in the refrigerator for 24 hours, changing the water three times. Drain well and cut the fish into large chunks. Put the cod into a saucepan and cover with plenty of cold water. Add the bay leaves and bring very slowly to a gentle simmer. Do not let the water boil, or the fish will become tough. Simmer for 5 minutes then remove from the heat and leave to stand for an hour. Drain off the water. Remove the skin and bones and flake the fish.
2 Heat the oil in a cast-iron or heavy-based casserole. Arrange a layer of sliced onions and potatoes in the base of the dish and top with a layer of flaked fish. Repeat to create another layer, then sprinkle with oregano and season with pepper. Pour on the milk and cream, cover and bring the pan to a simmer over a medium heat. Remove the lid and simmer for about 20 minutes or until the potatoes have cooked. By this time, most of the liquid will have been absorbed and what remains will be rather creamy.
3 Sprinkle on the nutmeg, garlic and parsley. Add a few drops of chilli oil, if using, and cook for a few more minutes.
4 Top with slices of hard-boiled egg and scatter with the olives just before serving.
A La Grecque: Our Greek Table by Pam Talimanidis (Hardie Grant