Jamie Oliver creates humungous ‘Bacalhau à Brás’ furore

British celebrity chef Jamie Oliver caused a wave of controversy last week after he revealed his own version of the much-loved Portuguese dish ‘Bacalhau à Brás’.

People were so incensed by what they called Oliver’s “lack of research” that now a Portuguese company specialising in saltcod has said it is time someone taught the young man how to cook with it.

It is possibly the very last reaction the enthusiastic culinary master imagined.

Reactions on his website and Facebook page ranged from the relatively kind: “Just a quick heads up – Bacalhau à Brás is not fish and chips”, to the more scathing: “I’m a great fan of yours but I’m sorry to say your style of Bacalhau à Brás does not sound very good”.

One fan gave him the benefit of the doubt: “It is perhaps delicious, but it is not Bacalhau à Brás.”

Oliver’s list of offences centred on the fact that he did not use garlic, and included ingredients like “shallots, chilli, vinegar and lemon zest”.

In the chef’s defence, a website moderator said that “Jamie and the team did lots of research into this dish” and that the recipe came from Portuguese chef Maria de Lourdes Modesto.

Portuguese saltcod production and distribution company Riberalves was having none of it. It has now officially invited Oliver to come to Portugal to learn exactly how the recipe should be done.

“The Portuguese are, by far, the greatest lovers of bacalhau and this is why the Bacalhau à Brás recipe you have shared on Facebook has had so many comments from the Portuguese,” the company said in an open letter, stressing that the original recipe was created by a “tavern owner in Lisbon and has been made into an institution in our country”.

Thus Riberalves “would be thrilled” to welcome Jamie Oliver in Portugal so that he could learn “the amazing world of salted cod” and the thousands of ways to cook it.
Riberalves and surely a throng of Portuguese are now anxiously waiting to hear back from the popular British Chef.

Bacalhau à Brás is one of Portugal’s most popular dishes, usually including nothing more than salt cod, potatoes, eggs, onions, olives, chopped parsley – and of course garlic!

Photo: Jamie Oliver’s version of Bacalhau à Brás