Bacalhau à braz (alternate spelling Bacalhau à brás), or cod with scrambled eggs and fried potatoes is one of the traditional dishes of Portugal. The Portuguese have 1001 ways to cook bacalhau, but this is one of the best of their recipes and quite unlike anything we eat in Britain. In Portugal the dish is prepared with salt fish because, with the principal fishing grounds in the North Atlantic and a relatively inefficient distribution system, it is not possible to get fresh enough cod to the typical home. If you have access to fresh cod, as I do, then use it.
Before anyone complains that this recipe is not genuine, let me point out that in Portugal, as with Italy, each village likes to claim that its own recipe is the most original and superior. All I can say for this recipe is that it was cooked under the direction of four women from the Minho (north of Porto) and it tasted absolutely delicious.
Ingredients (8 portions)
1½ kilo cod fillets*
1 kilo potatoes**
1 red onion
4 cloves garlic
200 gm pitted black olives***
* Please ensure that your cod is sourced from sustainable stocks
** these should be a floury variety suitable for making chips - I used Maris Pipers
*** look for olives that have not been marinated in anything too flavoursome, as otherwise you could upset the delicate flavour of the fish.
|The first step is to put the cod into boiling water. Leave for about 30 seconds before removing to a dish cloth. Lightly sprinkle with a good salt and leave to one side.|
|Roughly slice the onion and chop the garlic finely.|
|Peel the spuds and slice very thinly. Now cut the slices into very fine chips and keep in water to stop them discolouring.|
Being very slender, the chips will absorb more fat, the flavour and texture of which is essential to this dish.
|Bring all edges of the dish cloth into one clasp and squeeze the excess moisture from the cod into the sink. The salt you added before aids this process by withdrawing the moisture.|
|Crack the eggs into a bowl or jug. Steady the bowl with one hand and crack an egg with each of your other two hands.|
D'oh! That's given away my chef's secret.
|Beat thoroughly and season.|
|Fry all the chips together at a low temperature to cook them through without colour.|
|Turn them out and leave until just before the end of the cooking.|
|Now fry the onion and garlic in a large wok or skillet. Don't allow the onions to brown too much, but do make sure they are properly cooked.|
|Flake in the drained cod by hand and stir well.|
|After a few minutes, second fry the crisps one batch at a time in smoking oil. You must make sure the oil is hot enough for this step or the potatoes will absorb oil.|
|They should look like this. Turn them and season generously.|
|Now fold them into the pan with the onions, garlic and cod.|
|And gently stir over the heat.|
At the last minute add the scrambled egg and stir until cooked.
|Chop some parsley.|
|Turn it all out into a serving dish, add the de-pitted olives and the chopped parsley for garnish.|
There you go. Classic Portuguese bacalhau à braz, cooked Hackney-style!