Bacalhau da D. Esther

Bacalhau da D. Esther

D. Esther’s salt cod

Cooking from the Heart
Mark Roper

D. Esther used to cook (and still cooks) a beautiful salt cod recipe that was so delicious it became her signature dish! D. Esther’s family and her salt cod are still part of my life and bring beautiful memories of Brazil.

Note that if you use salted salt cod for this recipe, you’ll need to remove the salt by leaving the cod in water for two days and changing the water four or five times a day. You’ll also need to marinate the cod for one or two days before baking it. It’s delicious with rice.


Quantity Ingredient
1kg salt cod
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped
100ml thickened cream
100ml coconut milk
parmesan cheese, grated or shaved, for sprinkling
50g french fries or crunchy potato straws


Quantity Ingredient
3 onions, halved
1 garlic clove
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup olive oil

Béchamel sauce

Quantity Ingredient
30g butter
2 tablespoons plain flour
2 cups milk


  1. Bring a saucepan of fresh water to the boil. Add the cod and cook for 2 minutes, then drain. When the fish is cool enough to handle, remove the skin and any bones. Flake the cod.
  2. To make the marinade, blend the onions, garlic and vinegar in a food processor until finely chopped, without adding any salt. Transfer to a non-metallic bowl, stir in the oil and add the fish. Leave to marinate in the fridge for 1 to 2 days.
  3. On the day you serve the dish, heat the oil in a large frying pan over medium heat and cook the tomatoes until the flesh has broken down. Add the cod with the marinade and cook for about 15 minutes, or until the fish is cooked through. Reduce the heat and stir in the cream and coconut milk, then simmer for another 2–3 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 180°C.
  5. To make the béchamel sauce, melt the butter in a small saucepan and remove from the heat. Whisk in the flour to form a paste. Add the milk a little at a time, whisking constantly. Return the pan to the stove over medium heat and stir until the mixture thickens to form a sauce. Remove from the heat.
  6. Spread half the béchamel sauce over the bottom of a 24 cm × 35 cm baking dish, then spread all the cod mixture over the top. Spoon the remaining béchamel sauce over the top and sprinkle with parmesan.
  7. Bake for 20–30 minutes, or until the topping is golden. Sprinkle with the French fries and serve with rice.
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