Sometimes we organize a bacalhau (salt cod) weekend. I don’t think possible to find someone speaking Portuguese who doesn’t like bacalhau. Mozambican elite loves it too, maybe by colonial osmosis. It looks like having bacalhau on restaurant menus is half success guaranteed. Nowadays we have to spend a considerable amount to get this salted fish. Bacalhau used to be food for the poor. As it’s salted, it was easily carried by workers and eaten the way I see today’s South-Africans eating a spiced dried meat called biltong.
The first thing we have to do is soaking it well in water, during two days and with frequent water changes. The Saturday I was supposed to organize everything, Tieta decided to stay home. Well, as her birthday was coming I decided to be generous and prepare everything by myself… with a little help of guard George.
That Saturday lunch we had boiled bacalhau with various vegetables. It’s very simple and Paul’s favorite way of having this fish. The complication is the rest. I saved part of the boiled bacalhau and potatoes in order to execute Andy’s and JP’s favorite bacalhau dishes.
JP’s likes Bacalhau com Natas or Cod Fish with Cream. For that I sweated a lot of garlic and onions in a saucepan with a generous portion of olive oil, also adding half of the saved bacalhau carefully flaked. After I mounted layers of boiled potatoes, followed by the onion-bacalhau mixture, until the tray was full. Finally I covered the last layer with cream, a sprinkle of parsley and pepper. You can add salt at any stage, but you have to be careful because of the salted nature of the main ingredient. You can bake it right away until the surface is golden brown or you can keep it on the fridge for a rainy day.
For Andy I had to sweat onions and the remaining half of the flaked bacalhau. As he loves Bacalhau à Brás (code fish à la Brás, being Brás the name of the clever gentleman who invented it – I guess), I also had to fry a large quantity of French fries and beat six eggs, more or less 2 per person. Finally, I started to scramble the eggs in olive oil. When still creamy I added the onions-bacalhau mixture and finally the fries. I let it dry a bit and sprinkled parsley and a touch of pepper. You can also verify the salt and add a few black or green olives.
Do you think it’s the end of it? You are wrong. I also saved the water where the salted code boiled because with it I can prepare one of my favorite soups: Sopa Alentejana or Açorda à Alentejana. Don’t ask me to translate it, please! Well, I can try: it’s like a bread soup (açorda) the way they like it in Alentejo.
For that soup you need the water where the cod initially boiled, slices of country style bread, olive oil, one egg per person (can be previously boiled or poached in that same water), a small portion of flaked cod, lots of garlic and fresh coriander. Method: 1) Boil the saved water, adding the flaked cod and eggs. Do check the salt. 2) Smash a gigantic quantity of coriander and garlic. 3) Inside a covered serving bowl you introduce the crushed coriender-garlic and a fair amount of olive oil, displaying the slices of bread over that sort of pesto. Cover the bread with the boiling cod water, flakes and eggs. Give it a soft stir and cover the bowl during a few minutes. The scented soup is ready and cannot wait!
This is all we had the previous weekend. It lasted from Saturday lunch to Sunday dinner, though I was informed the boys still enjoyed very much the creamy bacalhau during Monday breakfast. I think you can understand now what I mean with feast!