Scandinavian Cod – A Delicacy in February

Scandinavian Cod – A Delicacy in February

Cod (Gadinae sp. Lotinae sp) is both the name of a certain fish, and a roomy expression for a large number of fish that are closely related. At this time of the year, winter cod is extremely popular in Norway, the world’s No. 2 seafood exporter behind China. The seasonal delicacy is known as “skrei”.

Skrei migrate between its nursery area in the Barents Sea and spawning areas along the Norwegian coast. The skrei season is an event between January and April, where millions of fish come to spawn – and especially to areas around Lofoten. The official start of the spawning season is February 14.

Scandinavian Cod – A Delicacy in February

However, Scandinavians in general are not particularly imaginative fish eaters. The traditional ways to prepare these fish are certainly not very varied, but they are good all the same.

Appearance and taste
Cod are long, smooth-skinned fish, often with dark or greenish stripes along the sides, sporting a small beard, and with mostly white, flaky fish. Most can grow to an impressive size, and are just as good when humungous as when they have a more usual size of 1-4kg. The flesh is mildly salty-sweet and delicious. All cod are most flavorsome in winter.

Scandinavian Cod – A Delicacy in February
Skrei fisherman

Culinary uses
Cod can be made into fishcakes and soup, or baked, fried, boiled or grilled. Scandinavians normally eat cod with the same accompaniments as salt cod, namely horseradish, mustard sauce, melted butter, capers, crispy bacon, pickled beetroot, hard-boiled eggs and potatoes – quite a meal, even without the fish!

Scandinavian Cod – A Delicacy in February
Skrei and cod’s roe dish

Cod with pork fat
This is a simple but delicious recipe. Personally I prefer the thick slabs of boneless cod, lightly pre-salted, and covered with thin bacon rashers. It is simply baked in a buttered, deep dish at 200C/gas mark 6 until the fish is opaque and the bacon crispy.  It’s amazing! You can use smoked or unsmoked bacon.

Scandinavian Cod – A Delicacy in February
Cod with estragon

Cod and sons
Boiled cod is a huge achievement if you are a perfectionist. But you can make your life less exhausting by simply baking it. It will be just as you want it to be – perfect flakes of opaque marble. Newly boiled cod’s roe, still warm, is a very different thing from cooled; it’s creamy, a little gritty, and is so nice with a lemony hollandaise sauce or caper sauce. It has become a luxury, but so has real cod.

Scandinavian Cod – A Delicacy in February
Cod’s roe

Serve the dish with a bowl of waxy potatoes and asparagus or pointed cabbage with dill, and your preferred sauce.

6 small cod’s roes
1.6 kg thick piece of cod on the bone
50g salted butter, cut into thin slices
Salt and pepper.
Serves 6

Wrap the cod’s roes in six small parcels of parchment paper and secure with cotton string. Sink them into a pan of boiling salted water. Turn down the heat and let them simmer for 5 minutes. Leave to cool a little in the water.

Arrange the cod in a deep dish and place the butter slices on top. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, then cover with kitchen foil. Bake at 180C/gas mark 4 and test after 25 minutes.

When the fish is still a bit rosy by the bone, it’s done.

Scandinavian Cod – A Delicacy in February, written by Tor Kjolberg