Portuguese food

The food of Portugal is rich, & has a depth of intensity just like its people.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Codfish Cakes - Pasteis de Bacalhau

Bacalhau (dried salted codfish) to the Portuguese is what soy sauce is to Asians & what pasta is to the Italians. It plays such a huge part in the Portuguese diet & its psyche & without it, a huge part of its identity would go.
Codfish is almost always used dried and salted; the Portuguese invented this form of preserving the codfish long before refrigeration, a way to bring back their catch.
It's said there is 365 ways to make bacalhau, one for everyday of the year.

As a kid I wasn't keen on bacalhau, especially when it was made in the traditional way of boiling it with potatoes & vegetables & dressing it with olive oil & vinegar.
There is probably only about 4 ways that I like to eat my bacalhau & this dish is of course one of them.

Traditionally these cod cakes are made for special occasions, although you find then all over Portugal at local taverns & cafes, eaten as an entree or snack.
I've seen people use fresh fish for this dish thinking it's nicer or are a bit intimidated using dried codfish but try this version first, the taste is unique & well worth it.
These are addictive, there is no way you'll stop at 1 or 2.
Codfish cakes are eaten at room temperature usually on the same day as their made.

There are two ways to buy your bacalhau here in Australia, the first is in cutlet pieces, this comes with skin & bones, which have to be removed, or in a packet, which has the skin &bones removed.
I recommend the packet as it makes it so much more convenient.
Unfortunately I forgot to take a photo of the dryed codfish still in the packet before it was hydrated.

  •  1kg potatoes
  • 600g dryed cod (bacalhau)
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1/2 bunch parsley chopped
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 white onion,peeled & grated, juice squeezed out
  • 1 teaspoon salt

1. Before you use codfish( bacalhau) you need to soak it to remove the excess salt, for 15-20hrs.
What I do is soak the fish the night before, after dinner I rinse the fish first to remove excess salt & then put it in a large bowl with enough water to completely cover it. Cover the bowl & refrigerate.
Then in the morning I remove the water & refill with fresh water & then leave it too soak a further  4 or 5 hours, changing the water at least another 2 times within this period . The way I know if enough salt has been removed is, I taste a bit of the cod.

2. Peel the potatoes & cook them in water until there soft.
Then strain the water from the cod & put the codfish in side a saucepan with cold water & bring to the boil.
As soon as the water has boiled the fish is cooked, strain the fish.
Put the cooked codfish inside a blender with the garlic cloves, grated onion & blend, till it's pulverised.

3. In a bowl add the pulverised codfish & the chopped parsley.
    When the potaotoes are cooked mash them.

4. Add the codfish, potatoes, salt together & then add the eggs, mixing till well combined.

5. With 2 tablespoons shape the mixture into quenelles.
     Fry the quenelles in clean medium/hot oil   

  • Codfish is a firm textured fish, slightly dry, so there is no need to add flour to the mixture to hold it together
  • Squeezing the water out of the onion is necessary otherwise the extra water will make the mixture more watery
  • Frying oil must always be fresh otherwise the mixture will absorb the oil & be oily & horrible to eat
  • Weigh the codfish when it's still salted & not hydrated
  • Don't oversalt the dish, fry a small piece & taste it fist to see if you have enough salt added
  • You can buy you dryed codfish at any deli or if your in Sydney you can go to:
Charlie's Deli
37 New Canterbury Rd, Petersham
Ph: 9560 4037


Lorraine @NotQuiteNigella said...

They look fantastic and you shape quennelles so well! :D I found a place that sells bacalau (it might even be Charlie's that you mentioned) and I want to make these now :)

Digital Media Learning said...

Yum, I love these. I have tried these before when I've been to the Portuguese restaurant. It's great to know how to make them.

Roland said...

These really look good. Yum

Portuguese kitchen said...

Thanks, Lorraine, I've had lots of practice.

Belnboo- Thanks,they taste just like them too

Thanks, Roland

Ralph said...

just made these here in new jersey with extra bacalhau that we had from Christmas. they came great ! thanks for the help.

Anonymous said...

Is it possible to order these from an expert fish cake cook for a wedding party? I will be too busy to make myself.

Anonymous said...

We've made these for New Year for the last couple of years. Thank you for posting the recipe. They.re delicious.

Ana said...

Thanks for posting your recipe, I make these every year on special occasions. When my friends ask for the recipe I send them yours since mine is in my head :) I just wanted to add a tweak to your recipe. My mom makes these and one thing she does differently is that she folds in egg whites (beaten until stiff first) into the final product. It adds a fluffiness to the cod cakes. We are from the Azores and so our method may be a regional thing.

Fernando said...

What a classic. Yummy. Galicia has something similar like here:

errabih said...