The Portuguese love their food…seriously love it. The Portuguese have an obsession with salted codfish, called Bacalhau. So fond of bacalhau that the Portuguese refer to it as ‘fiel amigo’ or ‘faithful friend’. They say there are 365 recipes using bacalhau and that you could eat it differently every day for a year…..I like it, but not that much.
It’s most commonly served with potatoes and vinho verde, green wine. Before cooking, the bacalhau has to be soaked for at least 24 hours to remove the salt and the water has to be changed about 3 or 4 times.
It’s the only fish that is not eaten fresh in this seafood-loving country.
Most of the bacalhau in Portugal comes from Norway or Iceland. Back in the good old days when the Portuguese were world explorers and before refrigeration, they needed a way to preserve the codfish for the long trip. The ancient techniques of drying and salting are still used today to preserve the nutrients and keep it tasty.
There are various types of bacalhau which will vary the price. Bacalhau Especial is high quality and expensive. Bacalhau graúdo merely relates to the size, big. Bacalhau miúdo refers to the small ones. While taking these photos in our local supermarket, Pingo Doce, I was chastised and questioned by supermarket security. Filipa explained that I was just a curious Australian girl and the potentially embarrassing incident was averted. The Portuguese take their bacalhau very seriously….or something to hide Pingo Doce???
We just recently went to Filipa’s village and while we were there we stocked up on organic meat and vegetables – local free range goat, chicken, duck and pork and home grown vegetables. We also picked up some bacalhau from Filipa’s grandparent’s store. It comes in large boxes and it’s as stiff as cardboard. Filipa used a guillotine to cut the bacalhau into pieces to take back to Lisbon. In the supermarkets they use bandsaws!
So far I’ve only eaten bacalhau four different ways. Only 361 to go! I’ve eaten Bacalhau com Batatas a Murro (Codfish with Smashed Potatoes), Pastéis de Bacalhau (Codfish cakes), Bacalhau com Brôa (Codfish with Cornbread). I’m looking forward to trying Bacalhau à Enterro (Burial-style Codfish) and Bacalhau Podre (Rotten Codfish)….???? My favourite so far though is Bacalhau à Brás.
For Bacalhau à Brás, the fish is cut in to shards and cooked with thinly sliced onions and the potatoes are cut into matchsticks and all the ingredients are bound together with scrambled eggs. It’s garnished with olives and parsley and is delicious. Filipa cooks this at least once a week. Most bacalhau dishes are named after the people who created the original recipe or the ingredients that are primarily used with the codfish. Thank you Senhora (or Senhor) Brás!
Here’s Filipa’s version before being devoured!