Cooking with a local in Portugal: Bacalhau Á Brás

We mentioned in our previous post that you must try Bacalhau Á Brás if you are visiting Portugal. It is truly a tasteful dish, but what made it extra special for us, is the experience of being taught this simple Portuguese comfort food by a local!

We met Katija (our host) at her home in Queluz, about 20-minutes drive from Cascais, the popular holiday town which served as our base during our stay. On her cosy porch with an outdoor kitchen, she welcomed us with such warmth and kindness that it didn’t take long for us to feel at home – perhaps the glass of green wine we were offered loosened us up as well.

Vinho Verde, which literally translates to green wine, is a young wine from the North-Western part of the country. It is actually very affordable and great value for money! We could buy a bottle for only €3 the next day. Such a nice and easy-to-sip wine, perfect for casual get-togethers, especially in the summer.

cooking at Katijas house

Katija soon had us deeply engrossed in her life story, food, and traditions from her birthplace and Portugal.

Katija is Portuguese, but African in the first place. She was born in Mozambique, one of the many Portuguese colonies (1498–1975) around the world. She moved to Portugal 28 years ago to have better educational opportunities, where she married and had children, and therefore settled down and did not return to live in her home country.

She learned the secrets of Portuguese cuisine from an expert chef in his restaurant in Lisbon then started to host guests in her own home soon. In Mozambique – she told us – people are extremely social, guests were frequent and always welcome in her home growing up. Since moving to Europe and working from home, she missed the social buzz they used to have. These cooking classes give her a great opportunity to meet new people from all around the world every day.

As we prepared the main dish, our host told us an interesting story about how the Portuguese sailed to Canada, where they met the Viking, who taught them the ways of preserving codfish by drying and salting it. The Portuguese grew to love salt cod so much, that it became a staple food of the people. There are 400 recipes using bacalhau! The only problem is, there are no codfish in Portuguese waters, so they need to import it from Norway, making it not the cheapest option.

Bacalhau á brás
Bacalhau á brás

You must soak fish in water for 48 hours before you can use it, and it is usually still salty enough that you do not need to add more salt to the food.

This recipe contains only simple, cheap ingredients and offers the warm satisfaction of being well-fed in a matter of minutes, the kind you want after a long day.

We cooked some onions and garlic, tossed the flaked fish around a bit, added some zucchini,  Barossa, eggs and done! Barossa is called straw potato in English, it looks like crisps, I would have not thought of putting it in my food, to be honest, but it was wonderful!

For dessert, we made Serradura à minha moda, aka Sawdust, which is a tangy-sweet cream layered with biscuit crumbles. Yumm!

We talked for a long time after dessert, had some red wine as well. When we left, we felt like leaving an old friend. We will definitely not forget Katija and all the things we learned from her!

You can book a cooking class with Katija here!

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