Antonia’s favourite codfish recipe

Bacalhau (codfish) Portugal’s most treasured dish

Antonia’s recipe for today has codfish as its main ingredient. Dishes with codfish are very popular in Portugal, and there are as many as 1000 or more different recipes with Cod as the main ingredient. I would also like to draw your attention to the Show cooking & Wine tasting evenings that Antonia is organising this winter at the restaurant “A Vela” 
It is a fantastic and very tasty experience so if you are in the area don´t miss it….

Knowing how integral bacalhau is in Portuguese cuisine may make anyone believe that it is caught off the Portuguese coast, but it’s not. Actually, bacalhau is caught in much colder waters near Norway, Iceland, and Newfoundland in Canada. The popularity among the Portuguese dates back to before the Age of Discoveries (15th-18th centuries), when Portuguese sailors travelled the world, sometimes spending months abroad relying on fish as a food source. In fact, the beginning of bacalhau in Portugal may have started as an inexpensive and easy to preserve, substitute for Catholics required to forgo land-based meat during holidays and other religious events.

Bacalhau aus Norwegen in Supermarkt Continente, Lissabon

Why is bacalhau dried and salted in Portugal

Visit practically any food market in Portugal, and you will see – and smell – the codfish in the fish section. They take over the counter space and are sometimes stacked in a box off to the side as well. Salting and drying the fish helps maintain its shelf life for a more extended period. This is also helpful since bacalhau is often imported and takes longer to reach Portugal. The term bacalhau always refers to dried and salted codfish, while fresh codfish is called bacalhau fresco.

Recipe for “Caldo de Feijão Branco com Bacalhau e Espinafres” (2 pers)

  • 1 large can of cooked white beans.
  • 1 small onion – finely chopped
  • 2 medium-size garlic gloves
  • 1 bay leaf
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • Virgin olive oil
  • 2 pieces of deep-frozen codfish
  • 1 Glass white wine
  • 3 carrots
  • 5 medium-size potatoes
  • Spinach

Fry the chopped onion, the chopped garlic cloves and the bay leaf in abundant olive oil and add a little salt and pepper. Do not forget that the codfish can be salty, so do not use to much salt you can always add more salt at the end of cooking.

Add to two pieces of codfish (frozen is easier and it comes already soaked if you use salted you codfish have to soak the codfish for 24 hours and change the water maybe 2 or 3 times to remove the salt)

Fry the codfish for a few minutes and then add the white wine.

Now you add the white beans and a little water,

In the meantime peel the carrots and the potatoes. Cut the carrots in slices and the potatoes in cubes. Add this to the codfish. All ingredients have to be covered with water, if necessary, add more water. Cover with a lid and let it simmer.

When everything is almost ready, add the spinach and check if more pepper and salt are needed.

Let it simmer until the broth is thick and ready to serve. This type of dish does taste even better the next day as the palate becomes more refined.

Dried white beans

Of course, you can also use dried white beans for this recipe, I am far to lazy for this but if you have more patience it is certainly a tastier and healthier option.

Place beans in a colander and rinse well. Remove any whole or partial beans that are significantly discoloured. You also want to check for pebbles and clumps of dirt. Unless you want to eat pebbles and dirt, but I don’t recommend it. Measure beans into a large stockpot. Add 4 cups of water for every 1 cup of beans. One pound of dry beans yields 3-5 cups, depending on the size of beans, so you’ll need anywhere from 3-5 quarts of water. Allow the beans to sit undisturbed for at least 8 hours, or up to 24.After soaking, strain beans into the colander and rinse very, very well with cold water. This step is pivotal in removing the enzymes that cause the gaseous side effects.

Return the beans to the stockpot and add the same amount of water you originally used, plus an extra cup for each cup of beans. For example, if you started with 2 cups of beans, you’ll need 2 quarts (4 cups water per 1 cup beans) + 2 cups more.

Place the beans on the stovetop and bring the water just to a boil. Stir, turn off the heat and cover the pot of beans with a lid. Allow the beans to sit undisturbed, for 2-8 hours. Strain beans into the colander and again, rinse very, very well with cold water. If you haven’t guessed, the draining and rinsing of the beans is the all-important step in de-gassing the beans. You must eliminate the soaking liquid and rinse off the residue from the beans. Don’t get lazy otherwise, you’ll pay later. Now you can start cooking the beans this will take at least 45 minutes.

Next week more about Florence !



  • Nicki Makris 25/11/2020 at 9:10 am Reply

    Absolutely yummy Joke. When I lived in Greece we did a lot with salted cod and the recipes were similar, but I will give these ones a try. Stay safe and well.

    • johanna 25/11/2020 at 10:07 am Reply

      Hi Nicki, I didn´t know they also have a lot of recipes with salted cod in Greece. When you are her next we can exchange recipes XXX

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