Is it possible to taste the culture, nature and history of a country in one delicious dish?  Sure, it is. That’s what makes food so exciting and multi-dimensional. To be able to recreate the flavour of the country, by cooking the dish at home magnifies  the joy. Its all about being able to travel, without traveling; lets just call it Taste travel. I serve up a couple of recipes to do so.

While the rest of Europe is freezing under a blanket of snow, here in the South of Portugal,  bright sunshine bathes the vividly blue sea and sky and lush green land. It is here in Vila Vita, amid 54 acres of spectacular, sub-tropical gardens, glorious white sand beaches surrounded by dramatic rocky coastlines that I taste “Cataplana” the signature dish of  Algarve (South Portugal)

I dine in Algarve’s superlative Portuguese restaurant with an equally fabulous traditional rustic décor. In Adega, brilliant chef Paulo Fortes uses the finest produce to cook up  Portugese specialties  We sit by the swan lake as the helpful Rita Gonsalves translates and explains the multitude of dining options.  I’m astounded by the options here…ranging from casual beachside dining and rustic, regional Portuguese plates to one-of- a-kind gastrocreations at the two Michelin-starred restaurant Ocean helmed by Hans Neuner,  and pristine Japanese cuisine at Mizu. I not only do a tutored wine tasting at their superbly stocked wine cellar, have authentic German fare at the Biergarten, but also the most sublime prawn curry at the beach side shack Arte Náutica. But it is at Adega that I not only have the best Portugese meal but also learn all about Portugese cuisine from  the maestro himself…Paulo Fortes.To him I owe my first ever taste of this magical dish which lovingly coaxes amazing flavors & textures..its the "Cataplana"  from Southern Portugal. Its origins go back to the 8thcentury under the Moorish occupation. That’s why it has some similarities to the African tagine. Cataplana de marisco is an awesome seafood feast. The dish gets its name from the copper pan it’s cooked in – a cataplana, a pan with two rounded sides connected by a hinge that opens and closes like a clam. The brilliant chef cooks to the authentic recipes with the freshest of produce. He points out that we can also do a vegetarian version with seasonal vegetables made to the same recipe. We  can also substitute the cataplana dish with a cast iron pan which has a cover.

Fish Cataplana

Recipe for 4 persons:


0.2       kg        Onions/0.02     kg        Garlic/2          pieces  Bay Leave

0.2       kg        Green Bell Pepper

0.2       kg        Red Bell Pepper

0.5       kg        Mature Tomatoes

0.020   kg        Tomato Paste

0.6       kg        fish fillet (clean)

0.32     kg        Prawns 10/15

0.2       kg        Fresh Clams

0.3       l           fish broth

0.05     kg        Portuguese Chouriço Sausage substitute by any sausage

0.05     kg        Prosciuto  Ham

0.02     kg        Fresh Cilantro

0.01     l           Olive Oil

0.25     l           White Wine  Salt and Pepper


-Cut the garlic in slices, the onions in half-moons, the bell pepper in julienne and the tomatoes in small cubes.

-Heat the olive oil in the Cataplana and sauté the sausage, the ham and the garlic.

-Add the bell peppers, bay leaves and the tomatoes; cook for a few minutes.Add the tomato paste.

-Pour the white wine, the Piri-Piri (chilli)  chopped cilantro, cook for 2 minutes.

- On low heat, cook for 10 minutes the fish broth

-Saute  small cubes of fish.  Sauté  in a separate pan with olive oil, salt and pepper. Pour the sauce with a bit of white wine.

-In the cataplana…put the fish, clams and the prawns.  Close the lid . Cook for 5 minutes until the clams open.

-The Cataplana can be replaced by a cast iron pan which has a cover.

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© 2019 by Rashmi Uday Singh

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