Bacalhau à Bráz {Proper Portuguese Food}

Last week on Valentines Day, as I was posting recipes for Venison Stew and Berry Crumble in heart-shaped ramekins, there was only one dish I had on my mind to mark the occasion.

We brought back some bacalhau (dried salted cod) from our trip to the Algarve last year and I wanted to make something really special with it. Bacalhau à Bráz is a really simple dish originating from Lisbon. Sorry - did I say simple? What I should have said is, the ingredients are simple - potatoes, bacalhau, eggs, garlic and lots of olive oil. The preparation and cooking is not. This is something you need to stand, watch, stir and look after. It's not a bung-it-in-and-leave-it kind of dish. Plus you have to remember to soak your bacalhau the night before you want to use it, so it also requires organisation and planning.

You need around 400g of bacalhau - this is the dried weight, without skin or bones. It's easier to remove the skin and bones from bacalhau after you have soaked it. I had a packet of pre-shredded boneless and skinless bacalhau, perfect for this recipe. Soak the bacalhau in cold water for around 24 hours to re-hydrate it and remove much of the salty flavour. Change the water 4 or 5 times during this time so the bacalhau is not too salty. It doesn't look good, or smell good at this point. Your kitchen will smell rather fishy as well (bacalhau has a very distinct smell) but it's all worth it.

It's much quicker and easier to use a mandolin to cut your potatoes into match sticks rather than doing it by hand. If you don't have a mandolin you can do it by hand, just put the potato match sticks into a bowl of water as you cut to stop them turning brown.

This recipe is one to be eaten once in a blue moon. It contains a gallon of olive oil, many eggs and much salt, thanks to the salty bacalhau. However, like most Portuguese food, it is amazing.

If you're wondering where the name Bacalhau à Bráz came from, it's named after the Lisbon dwelling chef who cooked it. Enjoy!

Bacalhau a Braz.jpg

Bacalhau à Bráz: Makes 2 large servings:

  • 400g bacalhau (salted cod) soaked overnight and shredded

  • 500g white potatoes (peeled weight) cut into match sticks, washed and dried

  • 1 large white onion, thinly sliced

  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed

  • 5 eggs, whisked

  • Olive oil for frying

  • Extra virgin olive oil to serve

  • Black olives & fresh parsley to serve

  1. Take two large frying pans and fill each with olive oil, around 1cm deep in the pan. Heat the oil. When it is hot add the onions to one pan and the potatoes to the other.

  2. Fry the onions for around 4 minutes until soft, then add the shredded bacalhau and garlic to the onion pan. Fry the bacalhau until cooked, stirring frequently. You may need to add a splash of boiling water if it starts to stick. At the same time the onions and bacalhau are cooking, in the other pan, fry the match stick potatoes, stirring frequently until cooked through. This will take around 20 minutes. When the potatoes are cooked removed from the heat and keep warm.

  3. When the bacalhau is cooked it will be opaque and you will be able to see the fibres. When the bacalhau is cooked add the match stick potatoes to the pan and remove from the heat. Stir everything together really well. Pour over the eggs and stir really well so everything is well coated with the eggs. Return the pan to a low heat and stir the mixture gently until the eggs are just cooked. Serve immediately topped with black olives and chopped parsley (I didn't have any parsley) drizzled with some good olive oil.