After weeks of walking past the blue swimmer crabs in Angelakis at the Adelaide Central Market and thinking how good they looked finally I could walk past no more and came home with two last Thursday. I added 1kg of beautiful mussels, 600g king prawns and about 500g Salmon to the mix and decided on cataplana for dinner. I love buying fresh Australian seafood at the market. It makes me happy.
Don't you just love the way the word rolls off the tongue. Cataplana. But, whilst it is a bit of an indulgent meal to make I can assure you that it tastes even better than it feels to say the word.
I'd had a cataplana a few weeks earlier when Sam, Lauren, Jess and I had a sister dinner date. It was yummy but a little stewed, in a way that seafood just shouldn't be. I knew I could do better. I know it is rather and indulgent meal cot wise but the reality is that I made enough for 6 for around the same price as the dish cost me at the restaurant, and mine really was better.
A cataplana is actually a Portugese copper cooking pot that you make individual serves in but I don't have any so I just made one big pot.
Not knowing exactly what went into a cataplana other than the tomato base and a feeling I'd be getting out my saffron I consulted master google and found this recipe by Steve Snow from Neil Perry's food source on Lifestyle Food. I think Neil Perry comes off as a bit of a dick on TV but I seriously rate his food. I adapted it to serve 6, chopped and changed a couple of the ingredients and cut way way back on the olive oil.
Cataplana of Seafood - Serves 6
About 800g red capsicums, chargrilled and skins removed
4 cloves garlic
1 Tbs Olive Oil
1 Tbs Olive Oil
1 Brown Onion, Diced
1 Clove Garlic
2 Cups White Wine (I used Verdhelo)
Large pinch of saffron threads
1 tin diced tomatoes
3 Star Anise
1 Medium Onion, finely chopped
2 medium-large potatoes, peeled diced and cooked until just tender and drained
Leaves from a bunch of fresh basil
Mixture of Seafood (prawns, mussels, squid, firm flesh fish, crabs, bugs)
2 blue swimmer crabs, cut in half (although you would probably want 3 if you are making this for 6 adults)
600g green king prawns which I peeled, you might like to leave the tails on for presentation
1kg green mussels, washed and bearded. After you have washed your mussels put them in a bowl to catch any liquor.
About 500g salmon, cut into 1” chunks
Warm slices of crusty bread like ciabatta or sourdough
Freshly ground black pepper
Place roasted capsicum cheeks (and any juice from the bowl you had them in), garlic and 1 Tbs olive oil into the bowl of a small food processor together with some sea salt to taste and whizz to a paste
Heat Tbs olive oil in a heavy based saucepan and sauté onion and garlic until fragrant and soft. Add the wine and saffron and bring to a boil. Add water, tomatoes and star anise, reduce to a simmer while you start on the final dish.
In a large heavy based saucepan add all of the Lisbon paste and the finely chopped onion. Sauté until fragrant then add the potatoes. Finish cooking the potatoes and paste together, stirring continuously, for about 5 minutes or until you start to get some caramelisation.
Add the stock into the pan, removing the star anise.
Add in crabs, fish and prawns finishing with the mussels on top. Put the lid on and cook until the mussels are opened.
Arrange in a large serving bowl with the crabs and mussels on top. Tear the basil leaves over and serve to the table with slices of warm crusty bread, black pepper for grinding and finger bowls.
I honestly can’t put words to how good this was. The saffron and star anise flavours just take it out of this world. The best moment was at the end of the meal when Sebastian (who easily ate as much as I did) gave me a big hug and said ‘Mum, thanks so much for making that dinner’. It might have been a bit decadent for a Thursday night dinner but you only live once right. I wish I had all the ingredients for another warming batch tonight but I think it might be plain old pumpkin soup for us tonight.
Have a great weekend.