xmlns:fb='http://www.facebook.com/2008/fbml' Trinidad Buljol (Salted Codfish Salad)...and a story about Nana

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Trinidad Buljol (Salted Codfish Salad)...and a story about Nana

It's been a while! Where do I start! To give you a quick snapshot, since my last post I resigned from my position of 11 years, left my comfort zone and started a new job with a Company that refused to accept no for an answer from me. That required me to travel to London for two weeks, a profoundly challenging yet rewarding experience. I had the humbling experience of traveling upper first class and enjoying luxurious hotel accommodations which was a short walk from River Thames. Evening dinners with a splendid view and soul searching walks in solitude. Hard work by day and a dream come true by night. By society's standards, I have finally "arrived". By my standards, I have much to do. Even so, life in corporate America/London is not so glamorous. Business plans, presentations, meetings and meetings about meetings. Still, I enjoy the challenge. To say it simply, I love telling people what to do and how to do it. My point here is believe in yourself. Keep chipping away at those barriers. You (we) are greater than the limitations we set for ourselves. Anything is possible. 

Summer 2015 lingered for a while; a Taylor Swift concert, an escape to Cabo San Lucas, a few Yankee games, a short trip to visit our capital, Washington DC, hosted a few family gatherings with lavish "comfort" food, and tanned until I was no longer recognizable. I don't remember anything else, sorry. I've had a lot on my mind, playing my A-game at work and home, and at the same time journeying deeper into "Spirituality" to attain peace and to become a more compassionate human being. 

I feel guilty that I haven't had the opportunity to share any recipes with you for such an extended time. This is one of my more important responsibilities and I do take it seriously. Today, I share with you a family favorite, with a history going back 40 years! For those of you who are not familiar with the word Buljol, it is a simple dish of salted cod which is rinsed and briefly boiled to remove the excess salt, then drained, shredded and combined with peppers, onion, garlic and olive oil. Other optional ingredients are added based on personal preference, these include tomato, avocado, cucumbers and I've even heard of the addition of boiled eggs.

Some of my favorite childhood memories in Trinidad are centered around Easter at my Nana's house (mother's father). Breakfast on Easter Sunday was always held at Nana's. My two younger sisters and I piled into the backseat of my mom's Datsun 120Y, all dressed in identical, pink lace-layered dresses, which were usually specially sewn by her seamstress friend for the occasion.

Once there, I headed straight to the kitchen to observe Nana in action and ask one too many questions. In his humble kitchen, he would be busy kneading flour for the bakes or creating his simple culinary masterpiece, the buljol. Once the ingredients were added (I recall he only used garlic and onion) to the flaked fish, he disappeared to some undisclosed location and reappeared minutes later with a small, thin bottle of "sweet oil" (olive oil), his secret, highly prized ingredient. Even in my adult years, I have often wondered why it was never stored in the kitchen. Apparently, I didn't ask enough questions. For the final step of the buljol, he removed the cork from the bottle and slowly and methodically drizzled the "sweet oil" in a thin stream around the bowl. This act, a cook's prayer, was hypnotizing, mesmerizing and appetizing to say the least. 

In Nana's kitchen my love for food and its creation blossomed into a passion.  Nana, Mr. Toy R.(pronounced Toh-ye), a very well-mannered man of stern character, with a no-nonsense disposition like my mother, had an important rule (or ten) in the kitchen. One such rule was not to taste anything until it was served. Aye Caramba. Mama Mia. Oh-em-gee and what the..... This forbidden rule added immensely to my excitement, suspense and frustration. Once served, I ate to my heart's content or until there was none left, mainly the latter.

Nowadays, I devour several servings while cooking, to ensure that it tastes phenomenal, and this habit may be associated with the previously mentioned 'somewhat traumatic" childhood memory(I am fine. Really). 

Buljol is usually accompanied by fried bakes or roti for breakfast, however, once my Hubbie packed me a lunch of the left overs with Jasmine rice and I have been hooked ever since.  

Check out the video for this recipe on YOUTUBE!

BULJOL (Salted Codfish Salad)
Serves 4-6

12 - 16 oz salted cod (bacalao, salted fish)
1 small (sweet) onion, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped (use more of less to your liking)
½ large red bell pepper, finely chopped, optional
½ large yellow bell pepper, finely chopped, optional
2 "Caribbean" pimento peppers, chopped, optional
4 leaves culantro (aka Bandhania or shado-beni) or 2 scallions(green onion), chopped, optional
3-4 tablespoons pure extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Other optional ingredients
1 tomato, seeded and diced, optional
½ cup chopped cucumber, optional
1 small avocado, cubed, optional
Hot pepper, chopped, to taste (habanero, scotch bonnet)


1. To remove the excess salt from the fish, first rinse under running water, then soak several hours or overnight in water. Alternatively, or in addition, place rinsed and soaked salted fish in a pot of water and boil for 10-15 minutes.

2. Drain, rinse with clean running water, press out excess water using your hands or a strainer and flake with a fork or your fingers. [After draining, I always test the saltiness of the fish. I may rinse or boil again depending.] You do not want to remove all the salt from the fish and you do not want excess water(moisture).

3. While the salted fish is boiling, wash and chop all ingredients.

[Did I mention that LOVE is the main ingredient!]

4. Place the flaked fish in a bowl. Add the remaining ingredients - onion, garlic, chopped bell and pimento peppers, chopped culantro (and optional ingredients if using).

The optional ingredients add flavor and creates "quantity" so everyone can enjoy to their belly's content-if such a thing is possible! 

5. Drizzle in the olive oil. Mix well to combine breaking up any chunks of fish. Taste for salt and add more if required. Season with freshly ground black pepper if you like.

[I had quadrupled the recipe here, and above for a family Sunday breakfast]

Enjoy with friends and family!

 I love hearing from you. Write me. Ask questions or send your comments. 

For more pics of food and my daily encounters, check out my new account on Instagram - CookingwithRia.

With thanks for visiting,

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