PLP 014 – Intermediate - Following a recipe in Portuguese

Topic: Cooking and impersonal subject SE in Portuguese

Olá everybody!

This intermediate episode is an action formula and we will learn how to prepare a typical Portuguese dish, Bacalhau à Brás, using the impersonal subject se.

In this episode you learn:

  • How to use the impersonal subject se.

  • How to prepare Bacalhau à Brás.

Listen to the episode

Portuguese Lab Podcast - European Portuguese - 14 - Sentences - Cooking.png


So, like I said before we are cooking today, one typical Portuguese dish, called Bacalhau à Brás.

We will prepare this recipe with a grammatical structure that uses the word se. This structure is useful when you want to emphasize the action and not the one performing the action. So it feels like passive, but actually uses the active voice. You do have a subject in the sentence, but it is an impersonal one. And this impersonal subject is the word se. This would translate to English as the word one, like in this example:

Fala-se francês em França.

One speaks french in France.

This structure is used when you want to emphasize the action, for example, when giving instructions, like in manuals or recipes.

If you listened to episode 5 of the Podcast you will probably recognize the word se as one of the reflexive pronouns. The one used for he, she, they. The word is indeed the same, and the verb will be conjugated in the 3rd person singular or plural.

Let me give you examples of singular and plural uses:

Aqui come-se muito peixe.

One eats a lot of fish here.

The verb is conjugated in the 3rd person singular, come, because you have a singular object, fish.

Aqui vendem-se muitos livros de Espanhol.

One sells a lot of Spanish books here.

Here the verb is conjugated in the 3rd person plural, vendem, because you have a plural object, books.

Now about the position of the word se in the sentence. You will place it after the verb, connected with an hyphen, as you would a reflexive pronoun. And as with a reflexive pronoun, you have to place it before the verb, without hyphen, in the exact same cases.

Before we begin our recipe, let's see one example using one of the cooking verbs you learned last time.

One cuts the onions.

The verb you need is cortar. And onions: cebolas. Because the object is plural, onions, you conjugate the verb in the 3rd person plural: cortam.

You have:

Cortam-se as cebolas.


Watch the video


Receita de Bacalhau à Brás


Demolha-se o bacalhau em água durante 24 horas. One soaks the salt cod in water for 24 hours.

Muda-se a água algumas vezes. One changes the water a few times.

Deixa-se escorrer o bacalhau. One drains the salt cod.

Retiram-se a pele e as espinhas ao bacalhau. One removes the skin and fishbones from the salt cod.

Defia-se o bacalhau com as mãos. One breaks the salt cod apart with the hands.

Cortam-se as batatas em palha, muito finas, e as cebolas em rodelas. One cuts the potatoes in thin sticks and the onions in slices.

Pica-se o alho. One chops the garlic.

Fritam-se as batatas e depois escorrem-se sobre papel absorvente. One fries the potatoes and then drains them on absorbent paper.

Leva-se uma frigideira ao lume com o azeite, a cebola e o alho e deixa-se refogar. One places the frying pan over the heat with the olive oil, the onions and the garlic and one let’s it sauté.

Junta-se o bacalhau e mexe-se com uma colher. One adds the salt cod and mixes it with a spoon.

Misturam-se as batatas com o bacalhau. One mixes the potatoes with the salt cod.

Partem-se e batem-se os ovos, e temperam-se com sal e pimenta. One breaks and beats the eggs and seasons them with salt and pepper.

Deitam-se os ovos na frigideira e mexe-se tudo com um garfo. One pours the eggs in the frying pan and mixes everything with a fork.

Retira-se a frigideira do lume com os ovos cozidos, mas ainda cremosos. One removes the frying pan from the heat with the eggs cooked but still creamy.

Deita-se tudo numa travessa. One pours everything on a tray.

Polvilha-se o prato com salsa e decora-se com azeitonas pretas. One sprinkles the dish with parsley and one decorates it with black olives.

Serve-se o prato imediatamente! One serves the dish immediately!


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