From traditional Lent recipe to gastronomical ambassador
The ajobacalao, also known as ‘ajocolorao’ or even ‘ajoporro’, is a traditional Lent recipe from the town of Vélez-Málaga. Very deep-roated in its cuisine, this dish has been prepared with basic ingredients in other periods, such as cod, garlic, extra virgin olive oil and sweet pepper. The recipe of this dish from Vélez-Málaga can be found today in some establishments in this city or in some Sabor a Málaga recipe blogs, like that of Laura Piñero, Leonor García or Belén Díaz, among others.
The making of this recipe is not difficult, but it needs some previous important steps, like desalting the cod so it loses the salt that covers its skin and leaving it in a recipient full of water in the fridge. The water needs to be changed once a day at least for three days. By doing this we make sure that there is no salt left in the fish.
After this previous step, we have to boil the cod so it can be crambled after. The water used to boil will be used to soak the bread. While the bread is soaking, we have to crush the garlic (to taste) with a mortar, pepper and a splash of lemon juice. We will add the crumbled cod and the bread (the recommended proportion is three parts of cod and one of bread) to this mix of spices. To all of this, we will include the extra virgin olive oil and the rest of the water from the cod, that will thicken the mixture until it becomes a thin mix, without lumps, that, because of the ppper, the bread and the cod, will turn into an orange colour similar to a porra. Among the possible options to complete this traditional dish from Vélez, some likes to add chilli to give it a spicy flavour. Others add seasoned olives or even strips of cod to the final mixture.
Although the recipe is not difficult, some people prefer to try the ajobacalao that the company from Vélez, who jumped into the project of cooking this dish in 2013, prepares. The brothers José Manuel and Luis Javier Espejo Molina founded this company to elaborate and distribute a recipe they know from childhood. In order to do that, they follow the most traditional recipe: with salted cod, bread, garlic, sweet pepper, extra virgin olive oil from the region of Axarquía and a splash of lemon juice. Therefore, it has no preservatives or any other artificial additives. Thanks to this entrepreneurial initiative, today it is possible that the ajobacalao stops being a seasonal dish to become an excelent snack (the product is served in tubs so it can be spread onto bread). You can buy the product from this company from Vélez on any point of the national territory.
The ajobacalao is a typical dish from Vélez-Málaga, the capital of the region of Axarquía. In fact, it can usually be found in a lot of establishments of the village during Lent and, especially, during Holy Week. No other references that suggest another origin has been found, except some cases of neighbouring villages that have elaborated this recipe, almost always for having been in contact with Vélez-Málaga.
As the writer and gastronome states in his book La cocina popular de Málaga (The popular cuisine of Málaga), the confraternities of Holy Weel still “preserve the old tradition of inviting the ‘hombres de trono’ —carrier of the throne— to eat ajobacalao and wine from the province”. It should be noted that with the prohibition of not eating meat during Lent, cod became the king of the cuisine during this liturgical time.
As the writer and expert in gastronomy of Málaga Fernando Rueda says in one of his works, there was a costume of using a spoon to eat it and use the crust of the bread as it was a fork. Another option was to spread it onto bread if one was very hungry. Rueda himself confesses in his Encliclopedia de La Cocina Malagueña (Enciclopedia of the Cuisine of Málaga) that a lot of dishes from Lent are nowadays “like a praise to the stoves of simplicity, authentic Mediterranean cuisine and patrimony of our culture”.