Although I was born and bred in London, I still maintain certain Portuguese Christmas traditions, namely the eating of Salt Cod on Christmas Eve. The typical Portuguese dinner would consist of boiled salt Cod, potatoes and green cabbage dressed with a vinagrette. I've never been too much of a fan of simply boiled food and neither is my very English Husband, hence the more English friendly recipe I use. Salt Cod is the main ingredient of so many Portuguese recipes, in fact there is a different recipe for each day of the year. Salt Cod takes pride of place at any Portuguese get together, wedding, christening or party making it the National dish, just like pasta is to the Italian.
So here is the recipe I use with my own little additions:
600g Salt Cod
2 medium onions
A couple of garlic cloves
30g of cornflour
30g of butter
25 ml double cream
a small handful of parsley
a couple of cloves
I soak the bacalhau in cold water for a couple of days before using it. Be sure to change the water at regular intervals.
On the day place the cod in boiling water and let it cook for about 30 mins until it's really flaky and easily comes off the bone. Remove from the water, remove all the bones then shred it as thinly as possibly using a fork. Heat up a few tablespoons of olive oil then fry your sliced onions/sliced garlic until they're golden and soft then add the bacalhau and the parsley. Let the mixture cook for about 10 mins whilst being careful not to allow the bacalhau to stick to the bottom of your pan.
Meanwhile peel your spuds and slice very thinly as if you were doing French fries. Cover the bottom of a non stick frying pan with olive oil, heat it up then chuck in the potatoes. Fry until they are cooked and lightly golden. Once these are done stir gently into the cod mixture. Then in another pan melt the butter then stir in the cornflour to make the roux. Pour in the milk, cloves, bay leaves, season (but not too much salt as the cod is already quite salty, in this case less is more). Keep stirring until you get a bechamel thickness then pour in the cream.Let this bubble away until it's nice and thick yet pourable. Place your bacalhau/potatoes into an oven proof dish then pour the creamy sauce over the top. Some people put fine breadcrumbs over the top but I leave it plain (there's enough carbs in this already). Pop into your preheated oven (180 fan oven) until the top is crispy and golden. Serve with a simple dressed salad or sauteed cavolo negro/spinach.
This freezes really well so by all means make up a big batch and stick it in the freezer for a later date. You can buy Bacalhau at Lisboa Delicatessen 54 Golborne Road, London, W10 5NR or you can try your local Italian Delicatessen if you can't get to Portobello. Enjoy!