Salt Cod (Bacalhau) with Rough Mashed Potatoes and Cream

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Dried salt cod (Bacalhau) is, unarguably, the most outstanding ingredient in Portuguese cuisine. The tradition of drying and salting this fish dates back to the 15th century and was/is a method of preservation. Caught in the cold wild seas of the North Atlantic, the fish was salted in the hold of the ship and kept, sometimes, for many months or years. Given salt cod is not caught off Portuguese shores, it is bizarre that it became such an important part of Portugal’s food culture. On average, a Portuguese person eats around 10kg of dried salted fish per year and it is the main ingredient served in celebration at Christmas. It is used in hundreds of dishes and can be cooked in a multitude of ways; but I have chosen one of my favourite methods –  known in Portugal as bacalhau com nata (cod with cream)! I state now, that it is my recipe! The Portuguese are very possessive about their cuisine and I know that one of the cooks that I worked with in my restaurant, here in Portugal, would have raised her eyebrows ….. and more. Forgive me, Cristina!

 

All supermarkets here sell bacalhau or dried salt cod. In its preserved state, it looks quite unappetising. Miracles happen after soaking in water as the meat starts to take on its original form.

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I always ask the fishmonger to cut the fish for me into pieces easier to soak in a pan.

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It is important to soak the fish for at least 2 days, changing the water regularly.

Remove the fish from the water, rinse and place in a baking dish. Cover with milk or a mix or milk and water; seal the tray with foil and bake in the oven for 40 minutes at 180 degrees centigrade. Remove the dish from the oven – be careful when peeling the foil off (steam’s hot!) – remove the cod from the liquid and allow to cool.


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Thick flakes of juicy cod.

The white meat will flake away very easily. For me the next part is very important!! Take time to remove any bones – I pick over the meat fastidiously – as I know that my son would down knife and fork instantly on unearthing any offending item.

Follow the recipe below to create the creamy sauce – and then combine all the components. Serve with buttered carrots. It’s absolutely fishilicious!!


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Add the vegetables to the pan and simmer until softened

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Serve with cracked black pepper and buttered carrots!

Bacalhau (salt cod) with vegetables and cream

Prep Time: 30 Mins Cooking Time: 40 Mins Total Time: 1 Hour 20 Mins

Ingredients:

  • 4 tbsp of olive oil
  • 3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 sticks of celery, thinly sliced
  • 1 large leek, thinly sliced
  • 2 carrots, thinly sliced
  • I cup of fish stock
  • bacalhau, soaked, cooked and flaked – discarding the skin and bones
  • bunch of parsley, chopped
  • a knob of butter
  • 200ml of cream
  • 600/700g of potatoes
  • salt (be cautious as the fish will be salty, despite soaking)
  • pepper

Directions:

  1. In a large deep pan, add the olive oil.
  2. Add the garlic, celery, leek and carrot.
  3. Add a pinch of salt and pepper.
  4. Cook for 5 minutes and add the fish stock. (I make stock in batches and freeze it like ice cubes)
  5. Simmer until the vegetables soften. Add a splash of water if the mixture becomes too thick.
  6. While the sauce is simmering, boil the potatoes. When cooked add a knob of butter and rough mash the potatoes. Set aside.
  7. Add the cream to the sauce and mix together.
  8. Gently fold in the flaked fish, rough mashed potatoes and parsley.
  9. You can serve the meal at this stage (carrots are a great accompaniment) or transfer to an oven proof dish, sprinkle the top with some grated cheese and bake for 10 minutes at about 180/190 degrees centigrade.
  10. Enjoy!

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