My first introduction to Portuguese food involved Bacalhau (salted Cod) in a restaurant in Vauxhall in London and I was hooked. Over the years, I have had the good fortune of trying various including some excellent home cooked versions of Bacalhau and I think that this one originating from the Northern city of Porto is my current favourite. Bacalhau is considered to be one of the most important Portuguese food item and its evident from its popularity in Portuguese colonies such as Brasil, Angola, Cape Verde, Macau, and Goa. Its also commonly used in Galicia region of Spain. Bacalhau is traditionally prepared in most Portuguese household during many celebratory dinners including Christmas. This dish takes a tiny bit of advance planning as regards to soaking the fish but from there on its a easy enough process and chances are that you would love the end result. Its essentially described as a casserole of Salted cod with potaoes and onions.
Ingredients (serves about 4 people)
500 gms of salted cod
500 gms potatoes
1.5 cups milk
3 onions (medium) sliced
3 garlic cloves, crushed
2 / 3 hard-boiled eggs
1/2 cup olive oil
few black olives
handful of fresh parsley
Soak the cod in water for 24 to 36 hours and change the water about every 8 hours. Drain the cod and flake into smaller pieces discarding any bones. Bring milk to a boil then turn off the heat. Cover the fish in the warm milk and let it infuse for about an hour. Drain and set aside.
Preheat oven to 180 C. Peel and cut potatoes in 1/4 inch thick slices. Gently boil for about 5 to 10 mins, till tender but able to hold their shape. Drain and set aside. Fry the onions in a generous amount of oil till soft and translucent. Add the garlic and continue cooking for about 2 to 3 minutes. Take it off the heal and set aside.
Oil a oven proof dish with oil. Add layers of potato, drained cod, and the onion garlic mixture, in that order till you use up all the ingredients, seasoning with salt and pepper as you go along. Spread olive oil on the top and bake in the oven for about 40 minutes.
Garnish with quartered or sliced hard-boiled eggs, chopped parsley and black olives. Serve immediately and ENJOY!