Long live the king


Legend has it that there are at least 1001 ways to cook it in Portugal, being particularly difficult to name the tastiest! It's the cod, which we call the "faithful friend" and "dear friend." Not being Portuguese, we made it ours through the preservation technique we invented: salted and dried! In the fourteenth century, Portugal established an authorization with the kingdom of Denmark to fish, but more important was the agreement between D. Afonso IV of Portugal and King Edward III of England in 1353, which allowed the Portuguese also to fish in waters dominated by that ruler. It is believed that the Lusitanians already had trade relations with the Nordic countries for supplying salt, and perhaps for that they had easy access to their northern seas to fish. We had great need of fish and its preservation, because in the Middle Ages the country was forced to fast for meat 132 days per year, a Church imposition. Only those who had money and paid the papal bulls could be left out of this rule. As the majority was poor and the acceptance of the dictates of Church common, during winter weather the small boats were unable to daily supply the fish.The dried salted cod became, then, an easy and cheap solution. Preserved, it could be kept throughout the year. It is told that it was in one of the periods of fasting precededing Christmas that King Sebastião I entered the history of world gastronomy. In 1576, he offered his uncle, King Filipe II of Castille, a famous fish only banquet. It was worthy of the following comment: "It is certain that my nephew, the king, is the Lord of the seas." 

Perhaps the Portuguese tradition of eating cod at Christmas has also been inherited by this Christmas fasting.

Since the sixteenth century, cod consumption has been extremely important, and it was even the subject to a tax only released by Queen Maria I, in the late eighteenth century. This act led to a rejoicing celebration by the population of Lisbon wanting to thank the Queen, gathering in Terreiro do Paço in manifestation of joy, causing the Queen to cross Praça da Figueira on foot, in an event that reportedly was the first time that the Queen walked in the city of Lisbon.

But, as far as it is known, cod trade was wavering. During the Philippine occupation, with all efforts focused on the organization of the Invincible Fleet, the Spanish and then the English began selling fish at a very high price, and it was only in 1642, after the restoration of the Portuguese independence and under King João IV reigning, that the Peace and Commerce Treaty was established with England, allowing the Portuguese back to fish in the North Sea.

In the twentieth century, the sale became widespread and low priced. There were so many vessels and people dedicated to fishing that it took the dictatorship of Estado Novo to create a medical support and hygienic-sanitary assistance boat. At the time, the cod is considered by the Portuguese to be our "Fiel Amigo” (Faithful Friend). In 1974, with the new organization of the country, cod goes back to being sold at high prices and it now is called "Amigo Caro” (Expensive Friend).

Today, listing all the recipes is a complicated task and there are several published books with hundreds of possibilities.

Out of the 1001 ways and many traditions to cook it, it's hard to say which is the tastiest. Possibly one of the most popular dishes is "Bacalhau com Todos" (cod with everything). On Christmas Eve, “everything” may include potatoes, cabbages, onions, carrots, turnips, parsnip and other roots, other seasonal vegetables and boiled eggs. All the dish is served well drizzled with olive oil!

But each region has its own tradition and cod stars in various recipes.

It's tasting time! After the journey through the history of the "Faithful Friend", it is time to taste this Portuguese gastronomy's delicacy. We suggest this recipe from Chef João Sá.

Enjoy your meal!

Codfish swim bladder with chickpea salad

For the crispy bladders

100gr desalted bladders

For the stew with chickpeas

200gr desalted bladders

3dl olive oil

1 clove of garlic

1 bay leaf

1dl extra virgin olive oil

salt and pepper

300gr cooked chickpeas

10gr chopped onion

20g black pork chorizo cubes

For the green olive oil

2dl extra virgin olive oil

100gr parsley


For the crunchy bladders, leave them in a dry, slightly warm environment to dehydrate them. When completely dried and hard, fry them in hot oil until they inflate.

For the stew, put the bladders in a pan with the olive oil and the aromatics on low heat without boiling for 45 minutes. When the bladders are well cooked and tender, remove and drain them from oil. Reserve some of the boiling water.

In a separate pan, place the onion along with the chorizo and let it sweat. Then, add the chopped bladders and a bit of their boiling water. Season with salt and pepper according to taste.

For the green olive oil, mix the olive oil and the parsley in a blender. Season and plate it.

Along with White CARM Maria de Lourdes 2011 wine

Teresa Santos [General-Secretary APTECE]