We went into a very small, cosy family run restaurant, about 12 tables, Mama cooked, daughter and Papa waited on. I couldn’t then and still cannot now speak or read Portuguese, but with the smattering of Spanish, that was in my grips I understood the pork and shellfish part of an entry on the menu. But Cataplana beat me hands down. I asked the Papa in embarrassingly bad Spanish, what it was, he shrugged his shoulders (they all seem to do that), pointed to a shiny copper ornamental clam shell object hanging from the walls and called his daughter across (she was in her mid 20s) she came across and started to chat and make a fuss of my daughter, who had by this time woken up (she had fantastic blonde hair, my daughter that is, why does she ever dye it black, orange and purple). She spoke very good English, although alas with a Cockney accent. I asked where she learnt it and she replied that she worked most of the year in London in a hotel run by her brother and returned home to help her Mama & Papa in the high tourist season.
I asked about this Cataplana thingy-me-bob and she explained it was a cooking utensil. A hemispherical top and bottomed pan made out of beaten copper this had been tinplated on the inside. One side had a hinge that had a removable pin and the sides had swing clips to clamp the two halves formly together, it also had copper cantilever handles. I was intrigued and started to ask quite a lot of questions and my daughter decided to join in, alas in a rather high pitched wail, which turned into a scream. I saw that this would be the end of a nice evening meal, but no! Maria (the name of the young lady) called out to the kitchen, out came Mama and took the screaming brat into the kitchen with her, buggy and all. I was relieved as by now I would have willingly not paid the ransom to get her back from any kidnappers, mother on the other hand looked a little more than worried, but was taken by the hand into the kitchen and there was a now placated baby girl happily playing with a baby boy of approx the same age, both sitting on a blanket in a corner of what can only be described as a large home kitchen. Watching over the pair, was Gran with a bucket of potatoes at her feet, peeling away merrily. It could have been the kitchen of my childhood. A warm healthy glow spread through me, a feeling of contentment and well being pervaded through, what was a very humble kitchen.
We left that wonderful kitchen and sat down at the table, I ordered a carafe of the local plonk and my wife had a bottle of water (I drove there, so she drove back). As I had made so many enquiries about it, I now just had to have the Cataplana. This was the start of a love affair that has lasted almost 30 years, I later through friendship visited the Algarve many, many times (though never again to the horrible Quartiera), but I shall never forget that wonderful evening in a small restaurant in Albefeira.
When it came, placed on the centre of the table with great aplomb by Papa, it was opened and out streamed the most wonderful, pungent, fishy odour, that had ones mouth salivating profusely before even tasting a morsel. Eaten with a bowl of those wonderful small potatoes and a pot of both the salsa Verde and the hot chilli piri-piri sauce and some crusty bread. It was wonderful, pure bliss, I think it must be one of the original seafood meat dishes ever invented. Who said that peasant dishes are not worthy of star ratings????
I have over they years tried to replicate the first experience, but have never come anywhere close to it. But the one that follows is pretty dammed good. Oh! My wife retrieved our sleeping nipper and we visited that fantastic restaurant a few times during that Algarve stay, but never again on an evening, I was all for it (it saved having to hire a babysitter from the complex) but my wife was having none of it!
So here is my miserable attempt to replicate that wonderful meal
600g pork filet
2 small dried chillies
Salt and pepper
Slice the pork filet into 1 cm slices
|adding the wine to the pork|
|the meat in the marinade to marinate|
Remainder of Ingredients
1 dessert spoon of Mojo Verde (see recipe)
Strained marinade juices
100 g of Chorizo sliced
Small sweet tomatoes (halved)
1 small tin of tomato dice
A few prawns, mussels or clams (they can be frozen and defrosted if fresh are not available)
50 g diced speck (bacon)
2 small or 1 medium onion (or 2 shallots) sliced into rings
300 ml of fish or vegetable stock
1 clove of garlic crushed and sliced
1 bay leaf
A couple of spoons of olive oil.
You can do this all in the cataplana and I suppose if being really authentic you would, but I heat some oil in a heavy bottomed frying pan add the onions and fry until traslucent, add the speck and allow to sweat a bit, then the garlic and chorizo, allow to soften and give off its paprika oils to the pan.
|colouring the pork, in the back ground the Cataplana with the Chorizzo,onions, speck and garlic|
|Adding the prawns and mussels|
I serve mine with the salt encrusted wrinkly potatoes from the Canary Isles (Papas Arrugadas).
Boil small salad type potatoes in boiling water loaded with salt until soft, when cooked pour off most of the water until you are left with enough to just cover the spuds, now boil until almost all of the water has evaporated and the spuds have a salty coating and have gone wrinkly!
|Papas Arrugadas in the last stage of wrinkling|
These potatoes originate from Lanzerote but as this is a region closer to Portugal than Spain, I think that they go very well with this dish, accompany these with a green garlicky sauce and a spicy red one to dip them into.
10 cloves of garlic
1 small onion
150 ml white wine vinegar
Small handful fresh coriander
Small handful fresh mint
Small handful fresh lemon balm
Small handful parsley
A couple of sage leaves
Pinch of cumin powder
Salt and pepper
Boil the garlic in the skin to soften, then fry the onion until translucent add all to a blender, add the herbs and spices, the oil and the vinegar, blitz and taste adjust seasoning to suit your taste.
|poaching the garlic|
|The herbs garlic and softened onions|
1 clove of garlic (diced)
1 red pepper (diced fine)
2 ripe tomatoes de-seeded and diced fine
Grated Peel of ½ lemon
Juice of ½ lemon
S&P to taste (Celery salt is also good)
This is a raw sauce, so add the chilli, onion, garlic, half of the diced red pepper to a blender and bltz into a fine mixture add the EVOO and the red wine, add the grated peel and the lemon juice, blitz once again, put the diced tomatoes and the remainder of the red peppers into a bowl, pour over the sauce. Mine unlike many Salsa Roja does not use any cooked ingredients, adjust seasoning at the end ( a sprinkling of Cellery salt won't go a miss.
|shallot, red pepper, garlic into blender|
|De-seed and remove white pith and chop chilli add to blender|
|grated lemon rind and juice of the lemon half|