food to glow

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portuguese salt cod tacos with mojo verde // food to glowBacalao, bacalhau, salted cod: whatever you call it, this is lovely stuff. Although we no longer need to salt food to preserve it, bacalhau is a gorgeous and still useful relic from an age before refrigeration.

I first had bacalao many years ago at – of all places – a Scottish-French restaurant. It was in a pearl-pale, utterly smooth soup, with double cream and tiny pieces of potato. Very like our Scottish cullen skink, but without the distinctive gently-smoked flavour. Cafe St Honore, I believe.

For ages I have been meaning to seek out this salt-preserved delicacy and have a go at making up this idea of salted cod tacos. Other interpretations flitted into my mind – a spicy soup, a pasty of sorts. But the taco thing was one notion that stuck. A draft of this simple recipe has been scribbled in my trusty plain black Muji notebook for over a year, just lacking the salted cod to make it come to life.

portuguese salt cod tacos with mojo verde // food to glowSo, to say I was surprised to receive bacalau in the post is a bit of an understatement. I think I might have emitted a ‘yahoo’. That would explain the cat bolting from her eyrie and under a chair.

To explain, I was contacted in December by the travel company Expedia and asked to come up with a Portuguese recipe for their World On A Plate challenge. In amongst the beautiful Portuguese ceramic ware, utterly delicious mountain cheese, olives and various Portuguese goodies I was sent to play with was the tell-tale vac-pac, characteristically grey and sparkling of salt. That’s when the cat scarpered.

Portugal is a country I have visited for both business and pleasure, eating rather well on two and a half times out of three occasions we have been. The first occasion  – the ‘and a half’ of this odd sum – was many years ago as a strict vegetarian. Back then the notion of vegetarianism was very alien in Portugal. As I quickly found out. After two weeks of alternating between a potato and onion tortilla and a boiled egg salad, and watching all of my omnivorous colleagues enjoying and extolling the varied dishes laid before them, I confess I cracked. When Andrew finally joined me, I was contemplating surrender to the ‘dark side’. And we both went there, for fish.

On that trip we enjoyed, latterly, bacalhau – the Portuguese spelling of the more common bacalao – in a stew. Simple, cheap, flavourful. We ate it at their equivalent of a veteran’s centre, up above the ‘proper’ restaurants that lined the street. On that sunny, warm early-April day we dined very well, and inexpensively, with dressed up families enjoying a Sunday feast –  the kids running around, and the adults chatting away letting the kids run around (a rare sight here in the UK). It gave us fuel to explore Portuguese culture off the beaten track. Portugal is still a largely unspoiled country, perfect for families, singles, couples; whether needing the reassurance of a package deal or more freedom with fly/drive. It’s not just about port and golf, you know.

There are numerous online ways to buy bacalao, but do read before you buy as there are different levels of salt-curing – longer cured takes more time to rehydrate – up to two days, with water changes – but lasts longer in its preserved state. Check too about its sustainability. And here’s some sound advice on a couple of ways to rehydrate/de-salt your bacalau / bacalao. Despite its quite meaty, cooked texture, once rehydrated use as normal, fresh fish.

In this recipe you may also opt for fresh firm white fish. I would just add a little salt to the grass-green mojo verde sauce. After rehydrating bacalau retains a tang of welcome salinity, so extra salt is not necessary.

Oh, here’s a highly readable Norway-Portugal-plate article on salt cod in The Independent newspaper.

portuguese salt cod tacos with mojo verde // food to glow

Portuguese Salted Cod Tacos with Mojo Verde {Green Herb Sauce}

  • Servings: 4
  • Time: max 2 days soaking/pin-boning + 15 minutes preparation
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Use fresh fish if you cannot get hold of the salted cod/ bacalao/bacalhau. If doing so add a little salt to the fresh herb sauce. This is also great without the actual taco shells, the meaty texture of the rehydrated fish forkable with potatoes and a mix of seasonal vegetables.  Make the sauce before preparing the fish.

mojo verde // food to glowMojo Verde

This makes more than you need but leftovers are fabulous on vegetables such as boiled potatoes {my recipe is similar to some Canarian recipes} and on omelettes. You could mix it with soft cheese or blended white beans for a firmer, dippable sauce.

5 garlic cloves + 1 packed cup parsley + 1 packed cup coriander stalks and leaves + 1/2 green pepper/capsicum + 1/4 tsp toasted and freshly ground cumin + 2 tsp cider vinegar + 1 tsp water. Blitz to a mostly smooth sauce {I used my faithful Froothie} then stir in 1/4 cup of best extra virgin olive oil. I don’t add it while processing as it makes it too thick and pale for my liking. Set aside in a serving jug.

portuguese salt cod tacos with mojo verde // food to glowThe Fish

450-500g {1 lb} salted cod, rehydrated as per processor’s/brand instructions, or see here. You want it softened. OR use fresh, firm white fish

100g {1/2 cup} cornmeal/polenta/milho moido

Oil, to shallow fry

8 taco shells {you could instead use small soft tortillas and make more of a wrap}

Chopped tomato, avocado, chillies and some extra coriander, to serve

Method:

1. Preheat the oven for the taco shells. Usually this is 180C/350F.

2. If the fish has bones pick these out with tweezers. This step can take awhile. Cut or tear the fish into small bite-sized pieces. You may perhaps be able to pay more to purchase boned salt cod.

3. Place the shells on a baking tray and bake for a few minutes short of the recommended time. Turn the oven down to 100C/215F and keep the shells lightly covered with foil. Start the fish while the taco shells are baking.

4. Pour the cornmeal onto a plate and toss the fish pieces around until completely covered, pressing a little to ensure it sticks. Have this ready before you heat the oil.

5. Heat enough oil over a medium-high heat to cover the bottom of the skillet to a depth of about 2 mm. I used a cast iron skillet, which usually needs a bit more oil than a non-stick pan. The oil is ready when a flick of water sizzles.

6. Add the fish pieces in batches and cook on all sides until uniformly golden. Scoop out with a slotted utensil and place on a paper towel-lined plate, and either pop in the heated oven while you fry the remaining fish.salt cod fritters

To serve divide the fried salt cod pieces among the taco shells. Serve with the Mojo Verde sauce, coriander leaves, chopped tomatoes, chillies and diced avocado. Baked sweet potato wedges or lime baked rice is lovely with this as well.

Note:  This is probably one of the fattier and saltier recipes here on Food To Glow. This isn’t everyday food or for those who need to watch their salt intake. But it is very delicious. Enjoy in moderation, as they say!

portuguese salt cod tacos with mojo verde // food to glowDisclosure: I was commissioned by Expedia to develop and publish this recipe.

28 thoughts on “Portuguese Salt Cod Tacos with Mojo Verde

  1. mihrank says:

    this is a famous dish in Portugal. Originally from South of Rome. Delicious Presentation!

    1. This looks delicious Kellie, can’t wait to try it! Next time you need a salt cod fix, I’d recommend “Lupe Pintos” on Lothian Road – it’s a gem of a foodie treasure trove! 🙂

      1. I haven’t been there in AGES. Thanks for the tip! And for taking the time to leave it. 🙂

    2. Not sure Mihrank if the taco and mojo sauce together with the frittered fish would be considered Portuguese or Roman in origin, but I’m glad you like the presentation 🙂

  2. Yum! My mouth is watering! I love bacalhau! I usually just pan fry it in butter and drizzle with portuguese olive oil and eat with potatoes and boiled eggs. The addition of the mojo verde must send it over the top:) Thanks for a great idea for my next bacalhau meal!

    1. Brilliant! Are you Portuguese?

  3. Wow, these tacos look wonderful!

  4. I’ll never pass up good fish tacos, and this mojo verde sauce to top looks divine. I’m not a big fan of bacalao however (or maybe I’ve just not had it prepared well when I’ve ordered it), but I would certainly sub it out for some fresh white fish.

    1. I usually make the fish tacos with fresh hake and top it with a purple cabbage and ginger slaw, and a spicy mango one (I think this was one of my first posts). This mojo is a keeper though. Very versatile. Thanks for the thumbs up, Katie.

  5. Fiver Feeds says:

    Looks lovely and it seems very easy to make as well, I’ll might give it a try.

    1. It is easy once the fish is soaked and pin-boned. Different cuts will have differing amounts of bones. I know that pre-boned is available but it would be more expensive and one of the points of using salt cod is that it is economical.

  6. lizzygoodthings says:

    Gosh Kellie, I haven’t seen salt cod for the longest time… the deli in our local shopping centre closed down a few years ago and it really is the type of thing you see in a specialty store. Lovely recipe… I would have made a loud yahoo too!

    1. Ha ha! Thanks, Liz. It is an old-fashioned, but very useful thing to have on hand. I will make a spicy stew next. They sent loads! I wish I could send you some 😉

  7. This looks amazing! I am seriously getting super hungry looking at this!

    1. That’s very sweet of you to say so. Thanks. 🙂

  8. Gorgeous photos, stunning colours!! Love the salsa verde 🙂 x

    1. Thanks for sticking with the post, Elaine. I know fish isn’t for you 😉

  9. stateeats says:

    Have never tried fish tacos with salt cod, I will have to give it a go. And, those blue plates look stunning with the contrasting yellow tacos! – Kat

  10. They look and sound so vibrant! I need to get into tacos, got a box in the cupboard but never think to use them.

  11. Elizabeth says:

    Yum! This beats fish and chips any day! Gorgeous!!!

  12. I love the sound of these tacos and I really love mojo verde. It’s amazing on potatoes!

  13. some mouth watering photographs, tacos are hard to beat fro big flavour. Your look great!

  14. That looks lovely, I love fish tacos but I really like the way you’ve coated the pieces for a little crunch.

  15. Emily Leary says:

    Beautiful! I’ll be trying making the Mojo Verde sauce for sure.

    1. It’s quite versatile – and slurpable 😉

  16. mmelling23 says:

    Great photos, amazing interpretation of a very portuguese ingredient 😉 must follow!

If you have time, I would love to hear from you. Thanks so much!

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