Pasteis de Bacalhau


Fried Codfish Balls

This must be the most favoured Portuguese snack, made of codfish and potatoes, deep-fried. We present two versions here.

Pasteis de Bacalhau, adapted from an ancient cookbook of Alina Luiz

1 lb | 500g bacalhau, well desalinated, cooked and cleaned of skin and bone
1 lb | 500g of potatoes, mashed
9 US fl oz | 250ml of béchamel sauce
½ bunch of parsley, chopped
4 egg yolks
ground pepper
4 egg whites, beaten to peak stiff stage

Note: Check the taste; salt may not be needed because of residual salt in the cooked bacalhau.

Thick béchamel sauce

For a thick béchamel sauce, melt 3 tbsp of butter in a saucepan and add 3 tbsp of plain flour. Stir with a whisk to blend. Gradually add 1 cup of milk, stirring continually to break up any clumps until the sauce is thick.

Soak the bacalhau overnight in the normal way, changing the water several times (click HERE to read more). Lay the bacalhau flat on a board and with a knife held vertically, scrape of the outer black skin.

Boil in fresh water until cooked being careful not to overcook and lose all flavour.

It is important that the potatoes not be overcooked. One robust technique is to cover potatoes in cold water, bring slowly to the boil, cover and then turn the stove off and leave the potatoes to heat through. Test with a skewer: the potatoes should be firm.

Break up the bacalhau into flakes, debone carefully and mix well into the mashed béchamel, parsley, egg yolks and pepper.

Check the taste. Normally the saltiness of the cod provides enough salt but if more is needed, add at this stage.

Fold in the beaten egg whites.

Deep fry in very good oil. The oil temperature is critical: too cool and the balls will break apart, too hot and they overcook on the outside and stay raw inside.

Drain and serve on salad dressed with oil and vinegar.

Serves 6-8 people

The uncooked balls can be prepared beforehand: first place them on single layer on a tray in the freezer; after they are frozen solid, they can be stacked in containers. Don’t worry if they start off sightly flattened: as they are cooked, the beaten egg whites will inflate and they will end up rounded.

Other recipes omit the béchamel.
The original recipe had the balls dipped in beaten egg and rolled in breadcrumbs before frying; this makes the surface smooth. Some might prefer to omit this step and leave the surface rougher and more crunchy.
The original recipe used finely chopped mint – an unusual variation.
Another old recipe by Sedaliza Luiz used twice the weight of raw potato to raw fish.

Pasteis de Bacalhau, from Maria Lourdes de Menezes Bayot, courtesy of Yvonne Husband

500g dried bacalhau (Portuguese dried cod fish)
500g potatoes with skin on
¼ bunch parsley
1 tbsp olive oil
3 egg yolks
3 egg whites
oil for frying

Cover the bacalhau with cold water and soak overnight. Discard the water and remove the skin of the bacalhau.

Cover the bacalhau with fresh cold water and boil until soft.

Remove the bacalhau from the water and place the potatoes into the water and boil until soft.

While the potatoes are boiling remove all the bones from the bacalhau.

When the potatoes are cooked, allow to cool and remove their skins.

Mince together the bacalhau, potatoes and parsley.

Add the olive oil and mix all together very well.

Then add the egg yolks to the bacalhau mixture and combine well.

Whisk the egg whites until very stiff, and then fold them into the bacalhau mixture.

Heat oil in a deep fryer or pot, when hot, drop heaped tablespoons of the mixture into the oil. Cook the balls of bacalhau until golden brown.

Makes approximately 36 large balls.

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