Molho fervido – Cooked olive oil dressing

The idea of molho fervido, also called azeite fervido is to add flavour to starchy plain boiled potatoes and a plain cooked fish usually poached, and often the choice of fish will be bacalhau (salt cod) but also popular is pescada (hake).

This hot dressing is normally served at the table for the person to help themselves and drizzle it over their plain cooked fish and potatoes.  Here I’ve turned it into a warm salad with smoked mackerel because that’s what I had in the house.

When I was young home-brewed Portuguese astringent red wine would be used in this dressing.  You can use a sharp red to replace the vinegar completely or use a mixture of the two.

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Like other traditional recipes there are many ways to make this, some add garlic and spices like cumin.  I don’t remember cumin being added in my area.  Normal onions can be used but I love red onions for their mildness and the amazing vibrant colour they become once cooked in the oil.

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Some cook the oil and vinegar together, some cook the dressing over 15mins or more, some like me add the vinegar at the very last minute.  If using wine I would add it earlier to drive off most of the alcohol.

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It’s important if making a salad to dress the vegetable as soon as they’re drained because they will absorb more of the dressing while hot.

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Molho fervido - Cooked olive oil dressing
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The dressing can be made ahead of time and warmed through when serving. Drizzle it over plain cooked fish and potatoes or in a warm salad. With the rich full flavour of the extra virgin olive oil, it needs acidity provided by a sharp red or white wine, or vinegar or lemon juice.
Ingredients
  • 1 red medium onion, sliced thinly
  • 1 large bayleaf
  • 1 small sprig of rosemary (optional)
  • 4 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly milled black pepper
  • 1-2 tablespoons of vinegar (if using wine 2 tablespoons)
Instructions
  1. Put everything apart from the vinegar into a small pan, bring it to a boil, turn the heat down to a gentle rolling boil. Cook for about 5 minutes. If using vinegar add it in the last 30 seconds before turning the heat off. If wine add it at the same time as the oil.
  2. Sliced garlic clove can be added and so can ¼ teaspoon of ground cumin or/and large pinch of turmeric.
Notes
I cook my dressing in a shorter time than most as I don't feel it benefits from longer cooking, the aim is to make sure the onion is soft. I cook it for 5 minutes, for this reason I slice the onion thinly to make certain it cooks in that time. I've used here the minimum amount of olive oil, it's hard to boil less, you don't have to use all of it when it's cooked.