These little salt cod and potato croquettes are irresistible, and quintessentially Portuguese. When working in Lisbon, it was very hard to ignore the siren call of the restaurant on the corner of my road, where you could get a bag of these croquettes, crisp from the fryer, for just a couple of euros. We would eat them on our balcony, in the fading evening light, with a cold glass of local vinho verde. — Rebecca Seal, author of Lisbon
You can freeze these croquettes once they are cooked. Defrost for 30 minutes, then bake on a baking tray at 200 degrees C (400 degrees F/Gas 6) for 10–12 minutes, until crispy on the outside and piping hot all the way through.
This recipe uses piri piri sauce — you can easily buy store-bought. If you want to make your own, click here for the simple and delicious recipe.
- 9 Ounces salt cod
- 14 Ounces floury white potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
- 1 small onion, finely diced
- 2 garlic cloves, crushed
- 3 eggs, beaten
- 3 Tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
- flavorless oil, for cooking
- 1 Tablespoon plain (all-purpose) flour (optional)
- 1 Tablespoon piri piri sauce
- 5 Tablespoons mayonnaise, to serve
- Lemon wedges, to serve
Roughly 24 hours before you want to start cooking, begin to desalinate the salt cod: Rinse it under fresh running water to remove any salt crystals on its exterior, then place in a large bowl of cold water, cover and leave in the fridge.
Change the water every few hours. It should be ready after about 24 hours — some cod is ready in just 8–12 hours, depending on its cure.
To check whether it is ready, place a piece in a pan and cook it with a little water for a minute or two, then taste. It may be slightly salty, but shouldn’t be overwhelming.
When ready to cook, place the cod in a pan, cover with fresh water, bring to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes.
Remove from the water and leave it to cool slightly.
Once it is cool enough to handle, remove the skin, along with any bones or fins, then flake the flesh.
Cook the potatoes in salted boiling water for 10 minutes, or until tender to the point of a knife. Drain and mash straight away.
Place the cooked salt cod, the mashed potatoes, diced onion and crushed garlic in the bowl of a food processor and blitz briefly, just enough to combine.
Transfer the mixture to a bowl and stir in the beaten eggs and parsley.
Place a large deep pan over a high heat and fill it with about 2 1/2 inches of oil. Heat the oil until it reaches 345 degrees F on a pan thermometer, or if you don’t have one, use the bread test: once the oil is shimmering, drop in a cube of day-old bread. If the bread fizzes and browns in no less than 30 seconds, the oil is ready. (If it burns in that time, turn the heat down.)
Drop a small nugget of the batter into the hot oil and cook for a minute or so.
Remove, cool, then taste to check the seasoning — the batter may need a little more salt.
Also, if the croquette mixture is too loose, and the nugget doesn’t hold firm in the oil (or is less uniform in shape than you’d like), stir the tablespoon of flour into the batter to thicken it.
When ready to cook, use 2 spoons to shape the mixture into quenelles: Take a scoop of the mixture with one spoon, then, with the other spoon in your other hand, gently turn the mixture between the 2 spoons, shaping it into an ovoid.
Carefully lower 3 fritters into the oil and cook for 2 1/2 to 3 minutes, until deep golden brown on the outside. (Don’t cook any more than 3 at a time, as this will crowd the pan and lower the temperature of the oil.)
Drain the cooked croquettes on paper towel while you cook the rest.
To serve, stir the piri piri sauce into the mayonnaise and serve it alongside the warm croquettes, with plenty of lemon wedges, too.
Recipe excerpted with permission from Lisbon by Rebecca Seal and Steven Joyce (2017, Hardie Grant Books)