Bacalhãu (bah-cal-yow) never fails to bring the partAy to my hyperactive taste buds and for this reason it has infiltrated my food memory for as long as I can remember. Its integral place in my life is partly due to the scientifically proven fact that coming from a Portuguese background and eating this highly versatile salted cod fish during festive seasons, family gatherings and treat days are highly correlated. However, my personal excitement for it has got to be attributed to my ancestry; my Angolan great grandfather was a fisherman so it was only natural that his daughter grew up devouring and loving great fish, as well as her daughter and finally, ME!
Bacalhãu has got a beautifully buttery, smooth, yet flaky consistency, which allows you to make it the underdog in all sorts of great moreish pastries, or even the star player in some mouth-watering meals. I can’t wait to cook them all with you, but like my good friend Veronica says, ‘you have to start at the beginning’…SO LEZ DO DIS WAN BY WAN! The first bacalhãu recipe I’m sharing with you is a bit of an invention inspired by one of my absolute favourite dishes, ackee and saltfish (#thief #sorrynotsorry). Now, my love for pastry is wild and knows no bounds, so when I say that once I opened the pastry gate to make this…BEST believe that I was on them like yellow on ackee :).
By the way, these crazily moreish munchkins are a bit time consuming to prepare BUT I’ve added in some step by step pics so that it’s a bit easier to follow. Plus, you’ll serenade yourself once they’re done because they will raise you up so you can stand on mountains…in other words…they are delectable (even my dad liked them, and he doesn’t like fish MUAHAHA). So enjoy making and eating them, but do try to share 🙂
p.s. If I were a fish, I would be bacalhãu because my exterior may appear to be salty and unapproachable as I have this kind of scrunched-up-passive-aggressive-don’t-talk-to-me neutral face, but once you get to know me (or put me in a nice bath) you’ll see another side that’s lovely! I can be thrown into different environments and still slay unlike your basic white fish AND I’m just a real nice down to earth yet very present being < note that down for your next interview kids…you are most welcome!
After soaking in a nice bath overnight, debone and shred
Cooked filling should look something like this
Place 1 tsp. of filling on cut pastry
Fold over and use a fork to seal the edges
Their imperfections make them perfect?
Because I was in an OTT mood, I made two batches, one with shortcrust (fork edged) and another with puff pastry (cloud edged). Now which one was better? Its like having two children and loving them both equally despite them having very different characteristics. I dare you to make both too!
Aren’t they lovely?
WARNING! I can’t stress enough how important it is that you soak the bacalhãu in water the night before cooking it – unless you want peeling-hell-fire lips and salt-cave-mouth…truss mih, I know :}. If you forget to do that, then no the world will not end, and no you don’t have to move the date of your munchkin making, BUT there will be consequences. IF for whatever reason you cannot soak the fish overnight then you’ll ‘just’ have to boil it whole until cooked through before shredding it. You may read that and think…‘oh is that it? It’s not that serious’. Sorry. It is. When you boil it, you will release all the flavour of the bacalhãu into the water, giving you a flavour-free pastry. The only thing I can compare it to is the end of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s stone when Voldemort flies out of Professor Quirrell and leaves him to die. So just try to avoid that situnario.
Bacalhãu and Ackee Munchkins (Serves 4 but also 1 if you’re celebrating life)
Prep Time: 2.5 Hours (Hello Spotify?)
Cooking Time: 40-45 Minutes
250g bacalhãu (preferably from a Portuguese store but alternatively, regular salted cod/saltfish are substitutes that can be found in most grocery stores)
340g drained canned ackee (word on road is that Dunn’s River is the best)
125ml soya single cream (use double cream if preferred)
320g puff pastry (try with 320g of shortcrust too! :P)
1 chopped medium tomato
1 medium onion
½ scotch bonnet
½ shrimp stock cube
1 crushed clove of garlic
1 tbsp. fresh chopped parsley
1 tsp. fresh thyme leaves
1 egg, beaten
¼ tsp. ground black pepper
¼ tsp. salt
1 tbsp. olive oil
Overnight method- Soak overnight then debone and shred finely
Same day method-Boil for 20 minutes, leave to cool then debone and shred finely
- Blend onions, parsley, thyme, garlic, scotch bonnet and shrimp stock cube into a paste before frying in olive oil for 3 minutes. If you don’t have a blender, make sure all ingredients are finely chopped and mixed together into a paste.
- Add tomatoes to mixture and cook for 2-3 minutes. With the back of your mixing spoon, crush the tomatoes so that they become pasty. Add 1tbsp. of water and stir non-stop for 3 minutes on minimum heat.
- Place bacalhãu in pan, stir into mixture and cook for 5 minutes before adding soy single cream. Stir once more and leave to cook for a further 5 minutes.
- Add ackee to pan but do not stir it in, otherwise this will break up the ackee way too much, but gently shake the pan so that it kind of collapses into the mixture. Leave to cook for 10 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.
- Meanwhile, preheat oven to gas mark 6. Then, roll out your pastry and cut into circular shapes (i did it with a container, but choose something with a sharp edge so it cuts it well and not bluntly). Remove filling from hob and using a teaspoon, spoon the mixture into the centre of the pastry. Fold in half, and gently press the edges close with your fingers. If you are working with shortcrust pastry, make sure you use a fork and gently press down on the edges to seal them. If working with puff, then you can skip using the fork because it seals easier :).
- Brush beaten egg on the top side of them, making sure you don’t bathe them in egg but just give them a gentle wash.
- Place them in the oven for 20 minutes and voila! Munchkin magic 🙂