“Cataplana” is the word for both the dish and the spherical pot it’s cooked and served in. This fish and seafood stew is from the Algarve, in Portugal.
You don’t need a cataplana dish, any deep dish such as a cast-iron casserole dish, Dutch oven or large pot. As long as it has a tight-fitting lid it will suffice.
If you really want to get an actual cataplana as used in Portugal you can from Amazon here. They are handmade from copper and will set you back at least £75.00.
Cast iron casserole dishes like those from Le Crueset are even more expensive. Personally, I have used my cast iron dish from Sainsbury’s for many years.
The base of any good cataplana recipe is the sauce it is cooked in. Every Portuguese family seems to have their own way of making it. Some use the heads and shells from the prawns used in the main dish while others use lobster tails.
If you like a bit of heat in your cataplana add a splash of piri piri sauce into the stock.
An extremely versatile dish, there are many versions of the cataplana in the Algarve, but a particularly delicious recipe comprises monkfish, prawns, clams, Portuguese chouriço sausage and a medley of fresh, bright vegetables, all perfectly seasoned. The dish can be made with alternative ingredients, such as octopus, cod or even meat added to the clams and prawns, but the ideal accompaniment is always a good white or green wine.
For the Prawn Stock
- Prawn heads and shells
- 100 ml Olive oil
- 2 onions large, thinly sliced
- 3 cloves Garlic crushed
- 2 Bay leaves
- 1 Carrot
- 1 pinch Saffron threads
- 1 tbsp butter unsalted
- 1 tbsp Tomato paste
- 2 litres Water
- 5 sprigs fresh flat-leaf parsley
- Sea salt
For the Cataplana
- 300 g Clams
- 300 g Mussels
- 1 kg Hake fillet cut into large chunks
- 2 tbsp Olive oil
- 6 ounces Chorizo sliced 5mm thick
- 2 Prosciutto thin slices, chopped
- 2 onions large, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced into half-moons
- 1 Green pepper de-seeded and thinly sliced
- 1 Red pointed pepper de-seeded and thinly sliced
- 3 cloves Garlic minced
- 1 Bay leaf
- 1 pinch saffron threads
- 400 g Tomato chopped
- 30 ml Dry white wine vinho verde is perfect
- 1.5 litres Prepared prawn stock or fish stock
- 200 g Large whole prawns de-shelled, de-veined, and de-headed.
- 80 ml Double cream
- 1 pinch fresh flat-leaf parsley to garnish
To Make the Prawn Stock
- Clean your prawns under cold running water. Remove the heads with a sharp knife, then de-shell the bodies. You'll be using the heads and shells as the flavor base of the stock. (Reserve the bodies for the cataplana!)
- Heat a large, deep saucepan on the hob over medium-high heat. Coat the bottom of the pan with a thin layer of oil, then add the shrimp heads and shells and cook until browned. Add the onions, garlic, bay leaves, and saffron, sweating until the onions are soft but not browned. Add the butter and tomato paste, cooking for a minute or so, then cover with the water. Heat to a simmer, and let bubble away (at a moderate, not aggressive) simmer, for about 30 to 45 minutes.
- Remove from the heat, add the parsley sprigs, and let stand for 15 minutes.
- Strain through a fine-mesh strainer, pressing on the solids to release all of their flavor. Discard the solids. You can use the stock immediately, refrigerate for up to 2 days, or freeze for up to 2 months.
To Make the Cataplana
- Soak your clams in a large bowl filled with ice and water for at least 15 minutes—this will help them release some of the sand in the shells. Then scrub and rinse under cold water.
- Heat olive oil in a large pot with a tight-fitting lid until shimmering, then add the chorizo and prosciutto. Brown, stirring occasionally until the sausage gets a little colour and the prosciutto starts to look like it’s crisping, about 5 to 7 minutes. Add the onions and peppers and continue to cook, stirring now and then, until the onions are soft but not brown, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic, and cook one minute more. Add the bay, pinch of saffron, paprika, tomatoes, and the white wine, stirring to deglaze the pan. Slowly add the prawn stock, then cook at a low simmer for about 20 minutes, until the tomatoes lose their tinniness and all the flavours have merged together.
- Increase the heat to bring to a slow boil, add in the shrimp, hake and clams, cover with the lid, and cook about 5 to 10 minutes, shaking occasionally. Once the clams have opened, slowly stream in the cream and stir, then shower with fresh parsley.
- Serve the cataplana right at the table, with bread, little fried potatoes, or white rice.
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