Bacalhau

Salt Cod À Moda de Pinhal Norte

I lived in Porto, Portugal for two years a long time ago and have always loved it – the people, the towns, the country and the food, which is streets ahead of any Spanish cooking. Bacalhau is the national dish and there are 365 ways of cooking it, so they say. It has a strong pungent flavour and I love it.

This is a particularly interesting method of cooking it. The turnips give a marvellous taste to the mixture.

Ingredients

  • 900 g/2 lb salt cod
  • 900 g/2 lb young turnips
  • 900 g/2 lb potatoes
  • salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 large onions, thinly sliced
  • olive oil
  • butter
  • 4 hard-boiled eggs
  • black olives

Method

You can buy salt cod in Mediterranean delicatessens. Rigid as cement, it looks grey and ghastly and smells worse, but do not flinch. Have it cut into a useful size for soaking. Soak in cold water, with frequent changes, for 24-36 hours. If you have a running stream, so much the better. Boil the rinsed fish for 20-30 minutes until flakeable. Remove skin and bones and flake the flesh.

Peel the turnips and boil until tender, then cut into thick slices. Boil the potatoes in their skins, drain, peel and mash fairly roughly. Season. Fry the onions gently in olive oil for 10 minutes.

Generously butter an earthenware oven dish large enough to hold all the ingredients. Spread half the mashed potatoes on the bottom of the dish and grind black pepper all over them. Lay the flaked fish on the potatoes, then the turnips. Chop the eggs and crumble them over the turnips, then spread with the onions and finally with the rest of the potatoes. Pour about 150 ml/¼ pint of good fruity olive oil all over the surface and dot with butter.

Heat thoroughly in a preheated oven at 180°C/350°F/Gas 4 for half an hour. This is a great big wonderful rustic dish. Serve it scattered with black olives and with some good fresh spinach on the side.

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