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.