Salted Cod (or ‘bacalhau’ in Portuguese) is an integral part of Portuguese cuisine, and although very popular, is today an expensive addition to the table. When the Portuguese first discovered cod in the Newfoundland waters around 1497, they found that this fish best suited the ancient techniques of drying and salting, retaining well its nutrients and even making it tastier.
Today, the cod stocks off Newfoundland are exhausted, and most of the bacalhau comes from Norway, which is why it has become more expensive, especially near Christmas time, since it makes part of many traditional dishes of this season.
No one can say for certain how many ways there are to cook this delicacy. It is said there are more than 365 ways to cook bacalhau, one for every day of the year; others say there are 1001 ways, but whatever the variation, it is one of the most delectable dishes on any Portuguese table. Most of the recipes traditionally serve cod with potatoes and the unique Vinho Verde – a unique Portuguese green wine.
I have known bacalhau as a child in Goa, usually eating it as fofos de bacalhau – prepared on those rare occasions when someone came over from Portugal with a piece of this salted fish. Longing for a more authentic taste of this Portuguese delicacy, I tried a number of variations during our holiday in Portugal, and I am certainly not an authority to say which was the best – for me they all were!
Want to try some great bacalhau?
Go out for a meal at Casa de Bacalhau. With 25 different bacalhau dishes on the menu, excellent wine card, appealing venue, reasonable prices you couldn’t find a better place. Getting there though is a little difficult, but since we were with our Portuguese friends from Around Lisbon, it wasn’t that difficult.
The restaurant occupies the old stables of the palace of the Duke of Lafoes and the original vaulted brick ceiling is really beautiful. To complement the excellent food are the friendly, helpful and competent staff, great starters and value for money.
Casa de Bacalhau is located at Rua do Grilo 54, Lisbon, better reserve on 21-862-0007 or visit http://www.casadobacalhau.pt.
We have carried some salted cod home and tried cooking the simplest recipe!
Pasteis de Bacalhau
- 300 gms bacalhau
- 300 gms potatoes
- 2 eggs
- Small onion chopped fine
- Handful of finely chopped parsley
- Pepper powder
- Cooking oil
Soak the dried salted cod for 48 hours in order to remove the salt. Place the bacalhau in a bowl which is large enough to hold it and for it to be completely covered with water, and change the water at least twice a day. (You could keep it in the refrigerator). In Portuguese stores, you can also find frozen bacalhau with the salt already removed. Some Portuguese also choose to soak the cod in milk for the second 24 hours.
Cook the bacalhau in boiling water for about 15 minutes or until it begins to flake when you put a fork through it. Boil the potatoes until they are soft. Remove the bacalhau from the pan and let it to cool a little so that you can then remove the skin and all of the bones while breaking it into small strands with your hands.
Peel the potatoes and mash them and then add to the bacalhau. Add the eggs, a handful of finely chopped parsley and half a grated onion. Add a little pepper, but no salt!
Mix all the ingredients thoroughly together with your hands until you have a very even paste.
Shape the fish cakes into small oval shapes and keep aside for frying. (Some use two deep tablespoons to make neat egg-shaped pasteis)
Heat the cooking oil in a deep pan allowing enough space for the fish cakes to float in the oil as they cook and remove them when they are nice and brown. Your pasteis de baclahau are ready. All you need is a little salad and vinho verdo and you are ready to serve.