Main Courses, Where to eat in Algarve
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A Grouper and Ginger Cataplana

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Happy 2016 everyone!

To kick-off this new year I decided to bring you a simple recipe prepared in a particular cookware that I have been wanting to use for a long time, the one and only, Cataplana. I got one as a Christmas gift this year, so it was the perfect timing to try some new recipes in it.

Cataplana is a culinary artefact typical from the Algarve region, another one of the many influences that Arabs left when they ruled the region many centuries ago. The first Cataplanas were shaped by artisans in Zinc, but nowadays they can be found both in copper and stainless steel. It should be used in low heat to allow the flavours of the ingredients contained to infuse and mingle slowly, it is basically the same cooking principle used in the Tagine, if you think of it. This clam-shaped pan allows a simple, healthy and fast way of cooking. You might think of it as a futuristic and minimal looking predecessor of pressure cookers. It can be used to cook almost everything but traditionally it is mainly used to cook fish and seafood dishes.

The inspiration to make this dish came from a fish stew I ate before Christmas in my favourite restaurant in Lagos, A Comidinha. This restaurant serves typical local dishes, cooked with fresh local ingredients. It is simple, non-pretentious food that is prepared to perfection. The combination of a typical southern Portuguese fish dish with the ginger twist was amazing and I wanted to try it out, but cooking with the Cataplana. I can’t help to get inspired and excited when I stumble upon dishes that are both traditional in the way they are prepared but elevated by adding a single different ingredient that changes everything.

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(Serves 2 to 3)

Ingredients:

  • 1 and 1/2 medium onions
  • 2 small garlic cloves
  • A thumb size piece of ginger (big thumb)
  • salt
  • good pinch of white pepper
  • 6 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 5 tablespoons of white wine
  • 6 to 7 medium potatoes
  • 7/8 steaks of grouper
  • 1 medium sized chilly
  • a handful of chopped fresh cilantro

Preparation:

Begin by slicing and dicing all the ingredients before staring to cook, this way the next part of the process is only assembling. Slice the onions and the garlic (the onions should be sliced in coarse slices but not the garlic), peel the potatoes and slice them with a half centimetre thickness. Start assembling the Cataplana by distributing the sliced onions and garlic in the bottom. Then, add the olive oil, the grater ginger, the chilly and the white wine on top of it. Distribute evenly the potatoes in layers on top of the onions. Finally, place on top of the potatoes the grouper pieces and season everything with salt and a good pinch white pepper. Close the Cataplana and allow the ingredients to cook in low heat for more or less 30 minutes. It is done when the potatoes and the fish are cooked. The low heat will help avoid the ingredients from sticking in the bottom of the pan. When everything is cooked, chop fresh coriander leafs (use also part of the stalks that are full of flavour), add it on top of everything and it is ready to go to the table.

Hope you enjoy this Cataplana recipe as much as I do.

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