There is more than meets the eye when it comes to bolinhos de bacalhau. Lots of love and care go into the making of these delicious, savoury snacks. In our home, the slightest whiff of these bolinhos instigates the hunt to find the stash. You definitely don’t live in a casa portuguesa unless you smell cod fish and frying oil in the air during special times of the year. Birthdays, Christmas, and Easter are just a few of the occasions where codfish cakes are served.
Growing up, a staple of ours, or should we say our avó, were these delicious bolinhos de bacalhau. You knew the holidays were right around the corner when you would search the house looking for your avó was, just to find her in the kitchen making them in the masses. And when I say masses, I’m talking 150—enough to last us the year. Whether they were to take to friends, family, or to serve in our home, they always had a purpose.
Now might we add, these are great hot and fresh, but you should be careful because if Rosa catches you stealing from the stock, you may be in trouble. (“just one”) she always says, because the rest are for the guests. But, if you can sneak enough before dinner you might be able to pass on all the healthy options (just a tip we have learned along the way).
You would think an abundance of these would serve well at Christmas, but this has not always been the case. No one will forget the one Christmas where everyone (but my uncle Custodio and late avô who made it known they had no part in this) made it clear that enough was enough and we would no longer need so much food during the holidays. Oh boy did Christmas take a turn for the worse, my mom and avó decided that one bolinho per person would suffice that year—ONE! What did they expect us to do? Actually eat the vegetables that were being served? The nerve. With that Christmas making history in our family, no one has ever threatened the chefs since and we all went back to the abundance of these little fish cakes we all love so much.
In all honestly these truly bring our family to the table. Whether it is over a glass of wine or paired with another favourite accompaniment of ours, rissóis, they are always a crowd pleaser. Even if you are not Portuguese, eating one of these without asking any questions is a great way to show your future mother/avó-in-law that you are ready to join the family.
Bolinhos de Bacalhau
Makes 50 pieces
½ salted cod fish (approx. 700g)
1 tbsp Parsley chopped
10 Eggs lightly beaten
Vegetable or canola oil (for deep frying)
Soak the salt cod in cool water for at least 48 hours, changing the water 2 to 3 times per day.
Boil potatoes until cooked (30-40 minutes), mash and set aside.
Remove cod from cool water and add to a pot of boiling water. Cook for 8-10 minutes.
Remove cod from pot and let cool.
Remove skin, debone, shred and set aside.
In a large bowl add potatoes, codfish, eggs and parsley. Mix .
Heat up vegetable oil in a pan.
Scoop a heaping tablespoon of the mix, and use your hands to shape it into an oval.
Once the oil is hot, place the bolinhos into the oil and fry them for about 2 minutes each side.
Swap them out for new ones as they brown and crisp up
Pour your favourite drink and share them with your friends.
WORDS: EVA FERNANDES AND KATRINA FERNANDES PHOTOS: NOAH GANHÃO