One of the staple foods of Portugal is salted cod or ‘bacalhau‘, as we call it. It may well be THE staple food. The tradition of eating salted cod is at least 500 years old and we pride ourselves in preparing salted cod in hundreds of different ways. Literally hundreds, and some claim thousands. Cod is the only fish the Portuguese don’t eat fresh and somehow the tradition has stuck to the point that buying fresh cod in Portugal is hard if not impossible but buying any other fresh sea creature that can be eaten is easy. We love our fresh fish but we wouldn’t have our cod any other way!
What salting cod does is to change both the flavour and the texture of the cod flesh. And those two aspects are equally important. The flavour becomes intense, concentrated and salty (obviously). The texture is flaky, tight and silky. It’s perfect.
Cod with cream – ‘bacalhau com natas’ – is one of the most well-known ways of eating salted cod. There are many recipes for salted cod with cream and all I can say is that this one is easy and delicious so no need to look any further. It’s made up of shredded salted cod, small cubes of potato and cream which are then covered in grated cheese and cooked in the oven.
I have added some prawns for interest and it works really well. One other element I think goes beautifully together with this dish is a fried egg. The egg yolk adds that gooey moisture, the egg white makes for a bit of lustrous texture and the flavours combine like a match made in heaven.
I confess I would eat anything with a fried egg on top. I am sure I have mentioned this before and so the likelihood of these sunny things popping up in my recipes is very high.
Some of the photos in this post are taken the next day because the artificial light in the evening (when I cooked it) doesn’t do the dish justice. So here you will see a mix of photos where the dish is photographed with natural light but half eaten and others where it was just cooked but the light is terrible. Apologies for this. When I cook it again I’ll make sure to come here and replace with some better ones.
What is important is that you try the recipe as soon as you get hold of some salted cod. You really won’t regret it.
- 3 loins salted cod (approx. 750g)
- water for boiling
- 1 Kg potatoes (I used baby new)
- sunflower oil for frying
- 4 tbsp oilive oil extra virgin
- 4 cloves garlic
- 1 leek
- 1 brown onion
- 400 ml single cream
- 240 grams raw king prawns
- 1 cup parsley chopped
- 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese grated
- 1/2 cup gruyère cheese grated
- 6 eggs to fry
- If you buy salted cod that hasn't been soaked you will need to do this 48 hours before you start cooking. Place the cod loins in a bowl full of water for 2 days and change the water 3 times a day. When you are ready to cook the dish start by boiling the cod loins in unsalted water for 5 minutes.
- In the meanwhile, cut the potatoes into small cubes and fry them in sunflower oil until golden brown. You don't need to peel them but if you want to make it a bit more fancy, by all means do it. Make sure you let them rest in kitchen roll for long enough until most of the fat has dried.
- While the potatoes fry, remove the cod from the water and shred the flesh with your fingers discarding all bones and skin. At this stage pre-heat the oven at 200 degrees Celsius (180 for fan assisted ovens), 400 Fahrenheit, Gas Mark 6.
- Chop the garlic, leek and onion and place in a large sauce pan with the olive oil and cook for 5 to 10 minutes. Add the cod and prawns and mix well. Cook for another 5 minutes.
- Add the cream and let it warm through by mixing well for a couple of minutes. Add the potatoes and chopped parsley and mix well.
- Spoon the mixture into a Pyrex dish or any oven-proof dish and grate the two cheeses to cover the whole surface. You can add more than it's specified in the recipe if you want.
- Let it cook in the oven until golden brown (approx. 20 minutes). Fry an egg per person and place on top. It's ready to serve! It's wonderful served with a fresh salad.
If you are interested in other traditional Portuguese cuisine recipes check out 'Migas' with chorizo, chickpeas and cabbage or 'Rabanadas with honey, nuts and figs'.
This looks delicious! 🙂
Thank you Lindsay. It really is delicious, but perhaps I am biased because I love salted cod. If you ever have the chance to cook it, please let me know how you get on. Thanks for dropping by! 🙂