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Recipe: pastéis de bacalhau (salt cod fritters)

Here’s a blog post + recipe for Portuguese salt cod fritters (pastéis de bacalhau) that I put together for my lovely friend Gidget’s travel blog. These are the yummiest, easiest fried morsels imaginable! Go check it out! You’ll also find city guides and recipes for various European foods.

welovewanderlust

If I had to name one significant food memory from my travels in Portugal, it would have to be the ritual of eating pastéis de bacalhau at least once a day. These little salt cod fritters are everywhere – in restaurants, bars and tascas. In fact, it’s hard for me to now remember eating anything else while I was there… except for dozens of pastéis de nata, of course, the famous Portuguese egg custard tarts with their just-set wobbly centres and dark, caramelised tops.

So what the heck is bacalhau, or salt cod, anyway, aside from being the most ferociously consumed fish in Portugal? It is a dried, salted product that originated in the 1500s, when the Portuguese began fishing for cod off the coast of Newfoundland. The cod from those icy Atlantic waters was way tastier than their own, so they had to find a way to preserve it…

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Melbourne caprese

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For those of you who are unfamiliar with the Melbourne caprese salad, let me explain what the deal is here: it’s quite similar to a regular caprese. It’s got tomatoes, mozzarella and basil. The difference? Every ingredient must be lovingly selected from marketplaces in the nation’s culinary capital. The ingredients are then sliced up and served in a quirky terraced house and washed down with some Yarra Valley red. Most importantly, the basil is sourced either from your garden or your neighbour’s.

ESSENTIALS FOR HANNAH’S MELBOURNE CAPRESE
– Tomatoes from the Melbourne Tomato Festival (yes, that’s a thing that exists in Melbourne);
– Smoked mozzarella + fior di latte from the local Italian dairy shop;
– Basil from the backyard of said terraced house;
– Smoked salt from herb & spice merchant on Lygon Street.

TA DAAAAA!

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I LOVED: ambling around Carlton & Fitzroy, drinking coffee, experiencing Lord of the Fries for the first time (someone please bring this to Brisbane), Nora, Russel’s Fruit & Veg, Gewurzhaus, GEWURZHAUS.

I DIDN’T LOVE: trams cramping yo’ style when they arrive at the stop…………………. that’s about it. Having to leave, I guess.

On the one hand, I wanted to eat out all the time and experience the food culture in Melbourne, but on the other, I just wanted to munch on shichimi togarashi oven fries (that we made over and over again) and slowly eat my way through the bag of heirloom tomatoes on the bench. Decisions, am I right?

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Coming back to the salad, though, if you’ve never had caprese, I encourage you to try it! It’s the essence of (what I consider to be) Italian food – simple, fresh and full of flavour, especially if you are privileged enough to get your hands on beautiful produce as I did this week.

But as much as I loved Melbourne, I’m happy to be back home in Brisbane, and I have a heinously long list of things to cook for you. I’m so excited to get to it.

Oh, and if someone could tell me where to find salt that is cold-smoked over oak Chardonnay barrels in Brisbane, I’d be overjoyed.

PS Thanks to Reana for helping me with these pictures and also to her bearded man Kieran for lending me his lovely, fancier-than-mine 50mm lens:) and also for being my tour guides, making me cups of tea and feeding me. I have wonderful friends.

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Caprese salad | Serves 4 as a side

2-3 extra large, ripe tomatoes
2 large balls of fresh mozzarella, smoked mozzarella and/or fior di latte cheese
12-15 large basil leaves
olive oil to drizzle over the top
salt & pepper to season

optional toppings & extras: balsamic glaze & capers, slices of fresh crusty bread.

Slice the tomatoes and mozzarella into roughly 1cm thin slices. Arrange in a spiral on a large serving plate, as shown in pics above. Scatter the basil leaves evenly over the salad. Drizzle with olive oil as desired, and sprinkle with salt and pepper to your taste.

If desired, serve with a bowl of capers and balsamic glaze at the table, along with some bread.

Nectarine + tomato panzanella

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Guys, I quit my job recently. Today was the first day of my life without my old job. So far I have:

– Eaten nearly a whole bag of corn chips
– Organised my loose leaf tea collection into labelled jars
– Spent $40 on a candle
– Done the spring clean I’ve been meaning to do for at least a year
– Run up the steepest hill in Brisbane. With these guys. Three times in a row.

I think I’m doing stage 1 of unemployment right. To clarify, stage 1 is when you haven’t run out of money yet and buy extravagant items you always denied yourself WHILST WORKING (what’s with that?). It’s the getting-shit-done and screw-my-diet but also time-to-get-fit stage. I suspect stage 2 is when I whip out re-runs of The Office and sit on the couch for days eating homemade strawberry ice cream, but that’s not confirmed yet.

BUT FIRST: Melbourne. Tomorrow I’m heading down to the cultured city to hang out with my friends in their rambling house in… hang on, let me get this right: Carlton North, most assuredly not North Carlton. Because another aspect of stage 1 unemployment is booking spontaneous interstate trips to visit the people you care about way more than a silly job.

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But before any of that we need to talk about panzanella. It’s a bread salad, which is good news for you if you like bread and you like salad.

The nectarine is a somewhat personal addition to this traditional Italian dish, but I think that it worked here. It’s also got chunks of tomato, bocconcini, garlicky croutons, and an almost illegal amount of basil. It’s an ugly, chunky monstrosity of a salad, but its beauty lies therein. Grab a fork and get all of those flavours in ya mouth.

Catch you soon! Hopefully I’ll be perfecting that strawberry ice cream recipe sometime soon.

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Nectarine + tomato panzanella | Serves 4

(The size of my slicing is just a guide. This is a messy, beautiful beast of a salad, and you can slice the tomatoes and nectarines up however you wish. Similarly, if you can’t deal with the idea of ripping up the baguette, go ahead and slice it instead!)

3 large tomatoes, sliced into 8ths
3 large nectarines, roughly sliced into ~3 cm pieces
200g bocconcini or mozzarella cheese, roughly cubed
20-25 basil leaves (most of a bunch)
1 tbsp olive oil
1 small baguette or similar crusty bread, torn up into rough pieces (or sliced if you prefer)
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

Dressing
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp maple syrup

To make the dressing: pour the extra virgin olive oil, apple cider vinegar and maple syrup into a small jar or container and shake to combine. Set aside.

Place the tomatoes, nectarines, bocconcini and basil leaves into a serving bowl and toss to combine.

Heat the olive oil in a large frypan over medium high heat. Add the bread and garlic into the pan with a big pinch of salt, and saute for 3-4 minutes until crispy. Add the bread into the serving bowl, pour the dressing all over the salad, and use tongs to mix everything together.

Serve straight away, and eat it all up because it does not keep well (dat bread goes soggy pretty quick being surrounded by all those liquids).