Bras-style salt cod

Bras-style salt cod

Bacalhau a bras

By
From
Lisbon
Serves
2
Photographer
Steven Joyce

Bacalhau à Brás is one of Portugal’s oldest, most famous and most loved dishes, a soothing mixture of salt cod and matchstick fries held together by barely cooked scrambled eggs. It is a classic dish; I hope I will be forgiven for adding a handful of sacrilegiously crispy fries to the top.

Ingredients

Quantity Ingredient
350g salt cod
500g floury potatoes, peeled
olive oil, for cooking
2 garlic cloves, bruised but whole, plus 2 cloves, finely sliced
1 onion, finely sliced
4 eggs, lightly beaten
salt
freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley, to serve
10 stoned black olives, to serve

Method

  1. Twenty-four hours before you want to start cooking, begin to desalinate the salt cod: rinse it under fresh running water to remove any salt crystals on its exterior, then place in a large bowl of cold water, cover and leave in the fridge. Change the water every few hours. It should be ready after about 24 hours, depending on its cure. To check, place a piece in a pan and cook it with a little water for a minute or two, then taste. It may be slightly salty, but shouldn’t be overwhelming.
  2. When ready to cook, place the cod in a pan, cover with fresh water, bring to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes. Remove from the water and leave it to cool slightly. Once it is cool enough to handle, remove the skin, and any bones or fins, then shred the flesh using your hands or a couple of forks. Set aside.
  3. Meanwhile, slice the potatoes into fine 1.5 mm matchsticks, ideally using a mandoline. Dry the matchsticks between two layers of paper towel. Place a wide pan with high sides over a medium heat and add about 5 mm (¼ in) olive oil. When shimmering hot, add the whole garlic cloves and the potato matchsticks, and cook until the potato is just beginning to crisp up and go brown. Using a slotted spoon, remove the potato and set aside, discarding the whole garlic. In the same pan cook the onion for about 5 minutes until just translucent, then add the finely sliced garlic and cook for a further minute.
  4. Turn down the heat to low. Next, return three quarters of the potato matchsticks to the pan along with the salt cod. Stir to combine, then pour in the beaten eggs. Season, then cook, gently stirring, for a couple of minutes, until the egg is beginning to set, like very loose scrambled egg. It should bind together the fries and fish, making a soft, scrumptious mixture.
  5. Remove the pan from the heat. Arrange the bacalhau à Brás in a small mound in the centre of 2 plates, then garnish with the remaining crispy potato matchsticks and the chopped parsley. Decorate each portion with black olives.
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