Cod is a quintessential Portuguese dish. This Bola de Bacalhau de Lamego recipe originates from the North region of Portugal (Lamego) and is a simple yet tasty biscuit-type of a dish. This Portuguese codfish dish is comparable to an Italian Focaccia, with a denser dough, with a layer of cod filling in the middle.
Cooking with Bacalhau
It might be strange for you to think about cod as dried and salted but, in Portugal, it’s the only way we eat it. It’s been rooted in our tradition for centuries now and is one of the reasons why there are so many Portuguese recipes for codfish.
Cod or as we call it in Portuguese, Bacalhau, is considered the prosciutto of the sea. Salting cod helps with the preservation but creates more depth in flavor as well, which is why recommend salted cod for this recipe. Because of the intensity of the salt, you’ll have to soak bacalhau for approximately 24 hours to desalt it. But, because of the soaking, you won’t have to cook the cod for a long time–3 to 5 minutes tops!
Bola de Lamego: Substitution for Bacalhau
Bola de Lamego can have different fillings, bacalhau being one of them. So, if you aren’t a big fan of cod or if you can’t get it dried and salted cod, you can easily substitute the cod with any other flaky white fish. You can, for example, substitute the cod with sardines (the best option) or mackerel.
If fish isn’t your thing, then using meat is also an option, like prosciutto, smoked pork sausage, or ham. Either way, I guarantee you, both versions are delicious (meat and fish). Although, and of course, the ham version is richer in fat and grease.
How to Serve Bola de Bacalhau de Lamego (Portuguese Cod Fish Recipe)
We usually consume cod during festivities, such as Christmas or even during Easter time. However, since this dish is considered a snack, you can have it whenever you want with no need to give a fancy party or with the excuse of being a holiday.
My suggestion is to serve and eat this dish with a cold and good quality white wine, on a nice sunny day. Another option is to turn it into a light meal, accompanied by a fresh salad and other veggies.
Bola de Bacalhau de Lamego (Portuguese Cod Fish Recipe)
- 4 steaks dried salted cod
- 500 grams all-purpose flour
- 5 grams active dry yeast
- 100 grams unsalted butter softened (in cubes (plus extra for greasing))
- 3 large onions
- 375 ml olive oil (plus extra for greasing)
- Salt and pepper
- Start with desalting the cod by soaking the cod in a bowl of water for 24 hours. Change the water at least twice during this process.
- Sift the flour into a bowl and add a pinch of salt. Dissolve the yeast in just a bit of warm water. Add the yeast to the flour and knead the mixture to combine. Add the butter little by little to the dough and continue kneading. Add more water or flour, if necessary. The dough is ready as soon it comes away from the side of the bowl. Rub the dough with olive oil, sprinkle some flour, and cover it with a cloth. Leave it to rise in a warm place for about 1 hour or until it doubles in volume.
- Preheat your oven to 200ºC/390ºF.
- Meanwhile, drain the cod steaks and remove the bones (see note 1) and skin. Then shred the cod into small pieces. Chop the onions and set them aside as well. Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a wide pan on medium heat. Add the chopped onions and sauté until softened. Add and heat the remaining olive oil in the pan. Add the cod and cook it for about 3 to 5 minutes or until the cod is soft (see note 2). Season with salt and pepper (see note 3) and set aside.
- Grease your baking tin with butter. Remove about two-thirds of the dough and place it in the tin. Rub your hands with olive oil and spread the dough so that it covers the bottom and sides of the baking tin. Spread the cod filling in the pan. Spread the rest of the dough to cover the filling. Fold the sides of the dough over the top to seal the sides. Rub the outside of the pie with more olive oil and bake it for about 40 minutes or until golden-brown and crispy. Let the Bola de Bacalhau rest before cutting it.
- Traditionally, you would cut small squares and serve the pieces.
- Press on the cod steaks to feel for bones and pull out any pieces of bone you feel. Repeat this process twice to make sure you’ve removed them all. You can also buy ready-to-use cod steaks without bones or
- They won’t need to be cooked for much longer as they’re already soft.
- Salted cod is already salty, but the saltiness differs from brand to brand. Be careful when salting and keep tasting as you go.