Bottarga: salt-cured fish roe... a Mediterranean speciality
“Bottarga”.... Salt-cured roe
In this season it happens often that we find fish full of roe and, many times, it ends in the garbage along with the rest of the entrails....
To make use of this part of the fish there is a Mediterranean speciality called “Bottarga”, that is normally done by salt-curing tuna or mullet roe: delicious if used on pasta, salads and some antipasti!
Tuna, Mullet or swordfish bottarga is prepared in Italy, south of France and north Africa and is done with a very simple process of salting, pressing and air-curing the roe.
Since I moved to Denmark I was curious to try bottarga made with the local fish: I tried torsk, aborre, tunge and pighvar... and this last one is, by far, the best kind of bottarga I have tasted in my life!
So, next time you catch a pighvar with roe remember this blog and give it a try... you will not regret it!
Bottarga preparation (semplified version)
1) Catch a pighvar with roe and gut it beying VERY carefull to not damage the roe bags that run in both side of the spine. This is the most difficult part of the operation but if you are carefull in detaching the bags from where they start on the fish belly, then a gentle but constant pull will make them slide out undamaged.
2) Put 1-2 cm of coarse salt in th bottom of a deep plate or other suitable container, spread the roe on top of the salt as in the picture and cover it with 1 cm more of salt. If you have the roe of several fish you can puth it side-by-side and add a bit more salt around. Cover with aluminum foil and put it in the fridge.
3) Change the salt at least once a day (better every 8-12 hours) for at least 3 days or more until the roe has taken a hard-rubber consistency. At this point let it dry out side of the fridge in a dry and ventilated place: pass it with a needle and tread and hang it up somewhere. Depending on the environment and on how you like it, it may take another 2-3 days.
That's it! The “Pighvar Bottarga” is ready to be grated or sliced and to be used in your favourite recipe.
One further step can be to grate it as you would do with cheese, letting the thin skin of the roe bag to fall out and removed.
After that it can be put in a jar and conserved in the fridge for long time.
A simple recipe??
“Spaghetti alla bottaga”
Spaghetti (nr.5) or Linguine
Put the water to boil with a lot of salt (for 100g of pasta you need 1 L of water and minimum 10-13 g of course salt.)
Cover the bottom of a frying pan with olive oil (don't be cheap with oil or it will be too dry)
making the soffritto: Chop one clove of garlic, put it in the oil and start to fry it: as soon as it start changing from white to yellow, add the chili, cook for another 30 seconds and then remove it quickly from the fireplace or it will burn. Put it aside.
When the pasta is cooked “al dente”, drain all the water, add immediately the soffritto, mix all together and serv it on a plate with a couple of spoons of bottarga and some fresh chopped parsley on top... Buot Appetito!
P. S. Variations include adding chopped cherry tomatoes and salted capers.
Another interesting preparation is done by warming in olive oil (just warm not fry) bottarga, sage leaves and slices of fresh black truffle (which i'm pretty sure is plenty in Denmark... just need a truffle-trained dog).