Margot is a slip of a space in Newtown, Te Whanganui-a-Tara Wellington that may or may not be named after the wonderful expat New Zealand chef Margot Henderson of Rochelle Canteen. From here, husband-and-wife team Juno Miers and Tom Adam serve rustic, highly seasonal European food: it’s intimate and casual.
Esqueixada – pronounced es-kuh-sha-da – is a Catalan salt cod salad. “It’s a dish that brings together some of our favourite summer flavours,” says Miers. “It’s fresh, umami, and above all, easy to make.” If you’re wanting to cling onto the memory of summer, then here is a late-summer recipe for just that.
250g salt cod (find at specialty supermarkets or salt your own – see below)
4 large tomatoes (ripest, best quality you can find)
1 large red capsicum
½ red onion
100g pitted Kalamata or Arbequina olives
1 bunch Italian parsley
Olive oil (best quality you have the means to source)
Salt and pepper
Use 200g rock salt per 400g filleted and skinless snapper or trevally. Pack fillets in a shallow container with half the salt underneath and half on top. Refrigerate for 8-10 hours. Rinse, then slice a little off to taste. If it’s too salty, soak in cold water for half an hour, then rinse again.
What to do
1. Place the fish in a container at least three times its volume. Top up with water to fill. Soak for 24 hours in the fridge to extract the salt. Change the water after 12 hours.
2. Cut tomatoes into even-sized pieces. They can be different shapes (and actually benefit from this) as long as they’re all roughly the same size. Add to a big bowl and salt lightly. (You want to salt them to start extracting their juice, as this becomes part of the dressing, but be aware the salt cod will season the salad so don’t go overboard.)
3. Cut capsicum into pieces a similar size to the tomatoes, thinly slice the red onion and give the olives a rinse. Add all to the bowl.
4. While the other ingredients are macerating together, thinly slice your salt cod. Check for bones by gently running your finger across the surface. The fish needn’t be uniform in shape or size, but each piece should be a similar thickness: 2-3mm. If you bought salt cod from a store and it’s still on its skin, lay the fish skin-side down and slice the flesh off the skin at a diagonal. Discard the skin.
5. Add sliced salt cod to the salad, then dress with olive oil and sherry vinegar to taste – we usually do a few good lugs of olive oil to 1 or 2 good lugs of vinegar. Make sure you try a little salt cod every time you taste the salad while adjusting the seasoning, otherwise you’ll oversalt the dish. Add more vinegar or olive oil to your preference.
6. Pick the parsley leaves and gently fold them through the salad. You can prepare this dish about an hour ahead, but only add the parsley right before serving.