Meia-desfeita de bacalhau com grão is salt cod with chickpeas and hard boiled eggs. It is so good. A friend in Newfoundland made it but I didn’t write down how he did it. Years later in the library, looking through Edite Vieira’s The Taste of Portugal, I found the recipe. And photocopied it.
Meia-desfeita means “half-undone”. In Lisbon, where the dish originated, people would ask for just half an order in restaurants if they were short of money. It has bulk yet is light (the beauty of chickpeas!). It can be served hot or cold. So it is a perfect winter or summer dish, for lunch or an evening meal. And it’s very pretty.
After making it with salt cod, I wondered what it would taste like with other kinds of fish. I got my chance to experiment with smoked trout fillets that a friend gave us.
With a couple ounces of leftover trout, I cut the recipe quantities to one third. That made enough for a meal for two of us. And oh, it was good! So below is the recipe from The Taste of Portugal with my modifications in italics.
- 12 oz (350 g) best salted cod, from the middle thick slices
(1 small fillet smoked trout, flaked)
- 12 oz (350 g) dried chickpeas (4 oz)
- 2-3 hard-boiled eggs, sliced (2 – lots of egg is good!)
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped (1/3)
- 1 clove garlic, finally chopped (1 small)
- 3 stalks parsley, chopped (1-2 fresh, 1 tsp dried)
- 1/4 pint (150 ml) olive oil (50 ml, 1/4 cup)
- 1 tbsp wine vinegar (1 tsp)
- salt and pepper
Soak the cod for 24 hours or longer (assuming the slices are thick) in cold water, changing it several times. (I flaked the trout off the skin and heated it in the microwave about 30 seconds after everything else was ready.)
Soak the chickpeas separately, overnight. Start cooking the chickpeas first (as they take 1½-2 hours if not done in the pressure cooking, which could reduce the cooking time to 25-30 minutes) in enough boiling water and salt. (You can use canned chickpeas instead, double the amount of dried. Heat and drain)
Scale and boil the cod in enough water to cover it, until tender (20 minutes). Do not add salt but check at the end whether it needs any, taking into account that you have soaked it long enough.
Prepare the garnish, mixing the onion, garlic and parsley, all very finely chopped.
In a separate bowl, mix the oil and vinegar.
For serving, place the cod at the bottom of a deep serving dish and cover it with the cooked and drained chickpeas. (I use a platter.) Pour the oil mixture all over this, sprinkle the onion-garlic-parsley garnish on top and decorate with the sliced boiled eggs.
Serves 4-6 (or 2)I think other fish and seafood would work well too. Shrimp and scallops perhaps. Something with body and richness. Probably not a delicate fish like fresh cod. You want the fish and chickpea taste and texture in balance. Here’s a slightly different way of making it.
Below is a link to The Taste of Portugal, an excellent cookbook that explains the food and its cultural origins. There’s also Jenn Thornhill-Verma’s 2019 book about the collapse of Newfoundland’s cod fishery. My Portugal Day talks more about the long connection between Newfoundland and Portugal due to cod fish.