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Algarve self-catering: recipe for Clams in a Cataplana Casa Velha

Posted on Jun 20 2017

By Imogen Bishop

Self-catering doesn’t mean skimping on luxury, and it means you get to try out the best local cuisine. To make sure you enjoy the full flavour of the Algarve while in a holiday let, here's a delicious recipe that you need to try if you take a break to southern Portugal.

Steamed Clams

Image by suchiorg, used under Creative Commons license (CC BY 2.0)

Portuguese Self-Catering Recipe

What better way to embrace the taste of Portugal from the luxury of your villa in the Algarve than by sampling a popular dish from the region. Clams in a Cataplana Casa Velha is a simple, tasty dish that you can whip up with a minimum of fuss, and enjoy at your leisure on a balmy Mediterranean evening. They love their seafood in this part of the world, and they also love their pork - so why not combine the two!

Local Algarve Ingredients

A thick flavoursome stew of pork sausage, clams, garlic and tomato, Clams in a Cataplana Casa Velha is quintessentially Portuguese and benefits from the quality of the local Algarve produce available. You can make it with ingredients back home, but the small, sweet and delicate Portuguese clams are without doubt the best for making this dish sing. As is the subtle and nutty Portuguese take on chorizo - called chouriço - but chorizo or pepperoni should make a fine substitute if there’s none available.  The best way to prepare it is with a traditional Portuguese clamshell cataplana, but if you don’t have one you can use a normal pot. Though you’ll be hard pushed to find a Portuguese kitchen without a cataplana!

Portuguese Kitchen
Image by chilangoco, used under Creative Commons license (CC BY 2.0)

Ingredients for Clams in a Cataplana Casa Velha

3 tablespoons salt
2 tablespoons cornmeal
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup coarsely chopped Italian parsley
4 dozen small clams
3 medium onions
3 large garlic cloves
2 large sweet green peppers
3 tablespoons salt
2 tablespoons cornmeal
1/4 cup olive oil
1 large bay leaf
1 can tomatoes
1 can tomato sauce
2 ounces lean prosciutto
1/4 pound lean smoked ham
1/4 pound chouriço

Preparation and Cooking Instructions

First things first, you need to scrub the clams. Once they’ve been given a good clean, place them in a large pot and fill with cold water. Add the cornmeal to the water as this helps draw out any sand or grit from inside. Leave to soak for at least an hour.

Now it’s time for the sauce. Crush the garlic and chop the onions, and cut the peppers into smallish strips and then cook the lot in a large pan with olive oil for around ten minutes. Once they start to smell tasty throw in the bay leaf, and the tin of tomatoes. Bring the mixture to the boil and let it simmer for 20-30 minutes. While this simmers dice the prosciutto, ham, and chouriço, then throw the lot in and cook for another half an hour.

Now it’s time to get out the cataplana. Spoon half the sauce into the bottom of the cataplana and place over heat so the sauce gently cooks, then start adding the clams. Place them over the bed of sauce and then cover with the rest of the sauce and shut the cataplana.

Make sure the lid is secure and leave for ten minutes. After that, open the cataplana add the wine and the parsley and gently toss the clams. Reclose and cook for another 15 minutes or until the clams open. Throw out any clams that don’t. Now get out your ladle and serve the beautiful concoction with some Portuguese farm bread, pao. Why not add a crisp glass of local dry white wine, Arinto to perfectly complement your culinary creation? Bom apetite!

Imogen Bishop is a part time travel writer, part time restaurant critic, and full time mum. She has an affinity for Mediterranean cuisine and can usually be found in the kitchen with a bottle of olive oil in hand.

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