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Salted Cod and Fennel Pilaf Recipe – by Irini Tzortzoglou

A similar dish is made in our village in Crete every year on the 4th December and a plateful of it is taken to our church named after St. Savvas who is celebrated on the 5th,  to be blessed. The village households then exchange dishes with each other.  In the original recipe the cod is cooked together with the rice.

In my recipe, the cod is desalted, dusted with spiced flour and fried and only added to the risotto towards the end of cooking.

Ingredients (serves 4):

For the cod:

300g salted cod fillets
2 tbsp buckwheat flour
½ tsp crushed fennel seeds
½ tsp garlic granules
150ml extra virgin olive oil

For the risotto:

350g risotto rice Tiroleza
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 fennel root, finely chopped, the fronds reserved
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
30ml ouzo Tyrnavos, optional
100ml dry white wine
100ml passata Kyknos
bay leaves
1 Ltr fish or vegetable stock
3 spring onions, finely sliced

To serve
½ lemon, juice and zest
50g parmesan, optional
Chopped fennel fronds


Desalt the cod as per the supplier’s instructions.  Rinse and pat dry the cod fillets, leaving the skin on. You may want to separate 4 small fillets to leave whole after cooking in order to top your risotto with.  

On a small tray, mix the flour with the crushed fennel seeds and the garlic granules and season the cod pieces with some freshly ground black pepper.

Keep the stock on a very low simmer in a saucepan.

Bring a frying pan to a medium to high heat and add the olive oil. Add the onion and chopped fennel and cook for approx. 10 minutes stirring and reducing the heat if necessary so the vegetables don’t brown. Add the chopped garlic and cook for a minute longer. Add the ouzo and let it evaporate. Do the same with the wine. When the wine has evaporated too,  add the passata and give the rise a good stir.   

Using a ladle add the stock gradually and let each ladleful be absorbed before adding any more. Towards the end of cooking time add the sliced spring onions and some of the cod shredded with any bones removed. You may choose to remove the skin. I leave the skin on as I love its fried spiced fattiness of it.

Stir the risotto, season with freshly ground pepper and sea salt and finish cooking, discarding the bay leaves.  

Serve drizzling with the lemon juice and sprinkling with the chopped fennel fronds and lemon zest.   

Irini Tzortzoglou recommends this dish accompanied with the lemony, acidic notes of Assyrtiko wine – and for the red wine lovers, because of the robustness of the fish and the tomato inclusion the olive and tomato nuances, a dry red Rapsani will also suit it well.

Find more of Irini’s recipes on her website or in her book.