Originally a Portuguese recipe which made its way to the exotic shores of Brazil, Bolinhos de Bacalhau (Pronounced ‘Bollinyoos de Bacalyao’) are delightful little salt cod fritters which are one of my absolute favourite things to scoff in summer washed down with copious amounts of Caipirinha cocktails. I first tried them 15 years ago a Brazilian bar called ‘Pam-Pam’ in Juan Les Pins in the South of France. They have become increasingly popular since that time and you can find them on restaurant menus up and down the country. Salt cod is a bit of an institution in Caribbean and Latin countries including Brazil, Spain, Portugal and Italy with pronunciations of the word ‘Bacalhau’ varying but the word itself is essentially the same. The cod fillets are preserved in salt and therefore need to be soaked for hours before it is ready to use, but once ready, they add a wonderful flavour to any dish – although none so wonderful as Bolinhos de Bacalhau.
You can buy salt cod from Caribbean supermarkets but most supermarkets have a dedicated Caribbean section these days, which is where I found my salt cod.
Makes about 16 fritters
500g Saltcod (or salted Pollock)
500g unseasoned mashed potato (About 3-4 large baked potatoes should do the job)
1 small pack of parsley, finely chopped
3 large whole eggs
1 whole bulb of garlic, minced or very finely chopped
1 large onion, very finely chopped
Sunflower or vegetable oil for deep frying – about 1 litre
A few pinches of Maldon sea salt
Pepper to taste
2 metal tablespoons (refrigerated to keep them cold)
Soak your fish per the packet instructions. Different brands vary, but I usually soak mine for about 6 hours minimum, ensuring I refresh the water every couple of hours to get rid of the excess salt. Once done, drain and dry the fish fillets using some kitchen roll.
Preheat a medium size deep cooking pot (not too big as you will need more oil to fill it) over a high heat and allow the oil to get nice and hot.
Ensuring your mashed potato is not hot (luke warm is best) and put it into a mixing bowl and shred your fish into the bowl using your hands. If this proves to much for you, roughly chop the fish instead but doing by hand is easier, I feel. Then add your eggs, parsley, onions, garlic and seasonings and mix the contents using your hands, really mashing the mixture until the egg is fully worked into the mixture and all the ingredients are evenly mixed in. Remove the spoons from the fridge and test a tiny bit of the mixture in the oil and if it immediately sizzles then the oil is ready.
Using a tablespoon, take a spoonful of the mixture (slightly bigger than a golf ball) and smooth it using your other tablespoon and then scoop it out of the spoon and into the pan. Keep doing this until you fill the pan, but do not overcrowd the pan as this will reduce the temperature of the cooking oil and make them take much longer to cook. The little fritter should take about 2 minutes to cook and they should go a darkened goldy-brown colour, but they will be light and fluffy on the inside.
Using a slotted spoon, drain your fritters onto doubled-up kitchen roll to soak up the excess oil and serve with a generous squeeze of fresh lime… and I think they go really well with sweet chilli sauce too. A little taste of the exotic making the perfect summer snack, light lunch or even dinner!