To start the night
Portuguese are the biggest consumers of Bacalhau in the world with an average of 7 kg per person, per year. We love it so much that we have around 1000 known recipes for it, varying from north to south. In one way or another, you will find Bacalhau on our Christmas tables, as it is the high point of the meal.
Bacalhau com broa (Corn bread salted cod)
600 g Bacalhau (hard salted cod)
200 ml good extra virgin olive oil
1 loaf of corn bread
6 garlic cloves
freshly ground pepper
700g new potatoes
Buying your Bacalhau
This dish starts when you buy your salted cod. Salted cod is not always easy to get in the UK, however there are always a few places online that will be happy to send you some by post. Choose Hard salted Cod, and because you will be using a whole fillet and not shredding it (another traditional way to have salt cod) you will need to choose “tall” fillets, and that means that the fillet came from a large cod, around 2.5 to 3 kg in weight.
Once you get your cod keep it as it is, well wrapped, in your fridge, until two days before your Christmas dinner.
Preparing your Bacalhau
Two days before you cook your Bacalhau, you will need to reconstitute it. Wash your fish under cold, running water to remove the majority of the salt. Now place it in a large, non-metallic container, skin side up, and fill it with cold water. Place it in the fridge and change the water every six hours. This process takes one to two days depending on how “tall” the fillet is, if you choose a fillet coming from a large fish it will take 48 hours, otherwise it will be done in 24 hours.
Cooking your Bacalhau
Now comes the easy part.
Turn your oven on to 200°C.
About 45 min before you want to serve your Bacalhau, wash your new potatoes, place them in an oven tray, sprinkle with salt and olive oil and place in the oven. They will be ready to serve by the time your Cod is done.
Remove the skin of the fish and rub the whole cod with two of the garlic cloves, sliced in half.
Now get yourself a nice oven tray, if you have an earthenware one, use it as it will lift the cod flavour.
Place the cod in the centre with a drizzle of olive oil and roast for 10 minutes. In the meanwhile prepare your corn breadcrumbs by whizzing the bread until fine breadcrumbs, mix with the remaining garlic cloves, finely diced, 200 ml of olive oil, salt and pepper. Mix well until uniform.
Remove your cod from the oven, it should be half cooked by now. Lift your cod off the oven dish and place it on a plate. Place a couple of slices of corn bread on the bottom of the oven dish and drizzle with some of the olive oil. Place your cod back on the dish (on top of the bread) and cover with the breadcrumb mix.
Place it back on the oven and roast until the breadcrumbs show a golden colour, this can take up to 30 minutes. Serve with your roasted new potatoes.
Shall we continue…
Cordeiro assado no forno (oven roasted lamb)
For the lamb
1 kg of young lamb
3 cloves of garlic
1 tsp of pimentao doce (sweet paprika)
1 bay leaf
3 tsp of peppers paste (optional)
freshly ground black pepper
25 ml of white wine
1 shot glass of port wine
small handful of Alecrim (rosemary)
For the Rice
300g of short grain rice
100g of parma ham
the giblets of the lamb (optional)
50g of chorico
1/2 tsp of tumeric powder
1 bay leaf
1 Tbsp of lard
Preparing your Lamb
On the day before prepare a marinade for your lamb.
Mince the garlic to a paste consistency, add the sweet paprika, the bay leaf, peppers paste, salt, pepper, rosemary and olive oil. Mix well until it forms a thick paste.
Rub your lamb with this paste, place in a bowl, cover and leave in the fridge.
Cooking your Lamb
Preheat your oven at 150°C.
Place your Lamb (and all the marinade ingredients) in and oven dish, and slow roast for about 1 hour. Keep in mind that different pieces of meat take different times to cook and you might need to extend this period to fit you lamb. After 30 minutes start pouring some of the white wine over the meat, to keep it moist.
After 1 hour, raise the temperature to 200°C, add your port wine and roast for another 20 minutes or until the lamb is well roasted.
Cooking the rice
In heavy bottom pan melt the lard, add half the onion (finely diced) and fry until it turns transparent. Add about 1l of water , the parma ham, the chorico and the giblets. Allow to cook until the meats are soft.
Once they meats are cooked, remove to the side and reserve covered. Wash the rice and measure the amount of water you need, it should be twice as much volume as the rice.
Place the rice in an oven dish, add the water, the turmeric, the remaining onion (finely sliced), the parsley and the bay leaf, give it a good mix and place it in the oven along side with your roasting lamb.
Once it’s cooked, dry and looking a bit toasted serve decorated with the meats, alongside with your lamb.
What we’ve been waiting for
The sweets and dried fruits are the perfect ending for the Portuguese Christmas, we love them so much that is normal to have about 10 different sweets on your table on this special day.
As with all Portuguese food they are completely different depending if you are in the north or south of Portugal, but they are mainly divided into 2 categories, spoon sweets and cakes, like rice puddings, leite ceme or honey cake and fried sweets made out of pastry that is either simple or stuffed with sweet fillings.
Arroz doce (Sweet rice pudding)
200g pudding rice
200g of granulated sugar
4 medium egg yolks
50 ml of milk
1 rind of lemon
1 cinnamon stick
First wash the rice until the water comes clear. Now place it in heavy bottom pan with enough water and place it over a medium fire. Boil for 12 minutes.
Once boiled drain and return it to the same pan, add milk, lemon rind, cinnamon stick and butter. Place over a medium flame again and bring to the boil. Boil for 5 minutes.
Now add the sugar and continue boiling for another 3 minutes. In the meanwhile separate your eggs.
Once your three minutes are over remove the pan from the fire. Add bits of rice to the egg yolks and mix quickly to warm the yolks. Once your yolks are warmer, slowly add them to the rice, stirring quickly to make sure the egg doesn’t form strings.
Pour into a serving dish or individual ramekins, and once cooled, sprinkle with cinnamon powder.
Filhoses (Fried sweet pastry swirls) 4 people
500g plain flour
2 juicy oranges
1tsp of olive oil
1 tbsp of sugar
0.5dl of aguardente (if you don’t have it, use white rum)
50g aniseed (whole)
125g plain flour extra
oil for frying
500g white granulated sugar for the syrup
Boil the aniseed with 1.25dl of water, once it’s starts boiling drain the aniseed. Sieve the flour to a wide bowl and push it to the side, in that space pour the sieved orange juice and the melted, but cold, lard, the sugar, the olive oil, the aguardente, the beaten eggs and bit of the aniseed tea.
Pull the flour towards the remaining ingredients and start to combine them a bit at the time, keep your hands wet with the aniseed tea while you do this.
The dough will be ready when it starts producing some bubbles which takes about an hour. Once that happens sprinkle the dough with some flour to help it dry.
With the help of some flour, roll out the dough until it’s really fine. Cut into strips of about 7 x20 cm and place on a towel that has been sprinkled with flour.
Heat up the oil.
Pick one of the ends of the strip with your hand and the other end with a fork. Dip the fork end in the hot oil and drop the remaining dough in wrapping it around the fork. Fry until its nice and golden.
Boil sugar with a bit of water until it reaches 110°C. Dip your fried swirls into this syrup and place them on a non sticking baking paper to dry off.