The Flavours of the Algarve:
Portuguese food in the Algarve is more than just grilled sardines and grilled chicken. To get away from the stereo-type touristy food, and for a taste of the true flavours of the Algarve, have a dinner at a cataplana restaurant.
Cataplana – The Utensil
The cataplana is a wok-shape hammered copper pan with a hinged domed lid. It was introduced to the southern Portugal region during the Moorish occupation in the 8th century AD.
The cataplana is meant to be a steaming pan and is much suited for the many shellfish such as ameijoas and conquilbas that are available along the southern coastal region. The ingredients are placed in the bottom half of the dish and the hinged lid is then closed, enabling the food to simmer together and the flavours developed during cooking. These days the pan has a much wider usage.
Cataplana – The Dish
Like the tagine, the cataplana is the name for both the dish and the cooking utensil used for cooking it. You can get lamb cataplana, chicken, fish or a combination of seafood. It’s often cooked with potatoes, tomatoes, onions and wine and seasoned with herbs or spices. This is not a stew as the cooking time is much faster.
Our dinner tonight is at the Marisquera Sol e Mar restaurant in the Quarteira district. After a number of starters, the huge cataplana pans arrive and we have a choice of fish or lamb.
The waiters are just too quick and whisk away the copper lids before we’re able to take a snap of it. They speedily dish out the food into individual servings so that everyone can get fed.
If you enjoy cooking, the cataplana pan is a nice souvenir to bring home from your Algarve holidays and to try some Portuguese cooking . The pans come in different sizes so it’s possible to hand-carry it on your flight. I was intending to get one but with our busy schedule, it totally slipped my mind.