I never did get to try this dish in Portugal but the idea of shellfish and pork together fascinated me. However, research shows this to be more in the use of smoked or cured pork than fresh. Both are a popular combination in Portugal, not only because they have very good pork and seafood. Legend has it that during the Inquisition these combinations were invented as a sort of culinary double-whammy to test one’s Christian zeal as pork and shellfish were proscribed to both Jews and Moslems. A cataplana is a hinged metal container that can be clamped shut. A pan with a tight fitting lid works too.
Preparation Time: 10 minutes (plus 30 minutes soaking time)
Cooking Time: 15 minutes
1 kilo clams
1/4 cup salt
1/4 cup polenta
1 medium Spanish onion
1 medium onion
1 red capsicum
3 cloves garlic, chopped
4 large red, ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped
1 tablespoon tomato paste
125mls white wine
150g piece prosciutto (presunto is the Portuguese style) or smoked ham
1 chourico (the Portuguese version), chorizo or pepperoni, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons Continental parsley, chopped
freshly ground black pepper
- Soak the clams in plenty of cold water, mixed with polenta and salt for at least half an hour. The polenta acts as an irritant that forces the claims to purge themselves of grit.
- Saute the onion in olive oil over low heat until beginning to soften. Add capsicum and garlic and continue to cook until all are wilted, sweet and soft but not brown. Increase the heat and add bayleaf, tomatoes, tomato paste and wine and bring to the boil. Reduce heat to medium and simmer until tomatoes have broken down and the sauce is pulpy. Stir in the prosciutto or ham and chourico and cook for another five minutes.
- Drain clams and rinse well. Add to the pot, mix through the sauce and cover with a tight fitting lid. Cook for only 3 to 5 minutes, or until clams open.
- Serve immediately, sprinkled with parsley and seasoned with black pepper to taste.