Ajobacalao (also known as ajocolorao) is one of the most original recipes from Málaga and there is nothing better you can spread on a toasted bread than this. It originally comes from the Costa del Sol town of Vélez-Málaga and was traditionally prepared by families of relatives and friends carrying the huge and heavy “tronos” during the festival of semana santa.
During the lent season preceding the biggest catholic holiday of Semana santa the consumption of meat was not allowed and traditionally, in the absence of electric fridges, and the difficulties to get fresh fish outside the coastal areas, the only solution was the dried fish, salt cod, dried pintarroja, dried octopus etc. In this context, I would like to explain that in the past anything more than 3 km from the coastal line was considered to be inland and although there were exceptions during the year, traditionally the cuisine in the inland villages were not influenced at all by the fresh fish. So the cuisine of a village located 5 km from the coastal line had certainly more in common with a village located 200 km from it than with a village on the beach.
Rinse the cod under running water thoroughly to get rid of the salt from the surface of the cod. Prepare a bowl or pot full of water and immerse the cod in the water a place it in the fridge to remove all the salt. Change the water every 8 hours. Do not underestimate this step – the most common problem of all recipes with the salt cod is that they end up too salty. There is a rule of thumb for how long to desalinate the cod – for every inch of height keep the cod in the water for one day changing the water every 8 hours (this usually mean that the lower smaller fish are fine after one day, the higher bigger ones after two). If you are not sure keep the 2 days period.
Put the desalinated cod (cut into smaller pieces) into a saucepan filled with the boiling water you had the cod in the fridge. Add chilli and cook until the fish is done. This depends on the thickness of the fish but normally it will take about 10 minutes. The texture of the cod is relatively firm and it is not as easy to overcook it as with fresh white fish.
Take the cod out of the water and place into the water the bread to soak. Crumble the cod in your hands and get rid off all the fishbones.
Crush the peeled garlic cloves in the mortar with a pinch of salt, add the lemon juice and paprika and while grinding with the mortar for a while, add the crumbled cod (keep some for serving), the crumbled soaked bread and a generous drizzle of oil (half a glass).
Keep on moving the pestle until you get a fine paste. Dilute it with a soup spoon of the cod water and add more if necessary. The final texture should be a spreadable creamy paste.
Move into a bowl, add some cod crumbs, quartered boiled egg, pitted olives and sprinkle with olive oil.
Traditionally, Ajocolorao was eaten with a slice of hard bread used as a spoon. These days it is usually served on a slice of toasted bread. That is why ajocolorao has even a third name: salt cod paté.