Monday, 5 October 2009

Cataplana Monkfish Tomato and Paprika Stew

Is it a bed pan? Is it a UFO? Don’t be ridiculous. It’s a copper Portuguese cooking vessel called a Cataplana of course!

It was an inspired present from Cowie for my birthday and had sat since April on my bedroom shelf taunting me. So I decided to take it with us on our trip around the South West. And I am delighted we did.

On a glorious evening sitting outside our tent at Higher Rew campsite just outside Salcombe, we looked out across a scene that deserved to be painted rather than waffled about. The heat of the day eased away and the whispy clouds puffed and the dew started to settle.

In the last light of day we lit our BBQ and grilled some aubergines, peppers, courgettes and tomatoes which had been seasoned and brushed with olive oil. Having achieved a delicate char with a beer in hand we set these aside and set the cataplana on the now glowing coals.

Veggie grilling


Fry two onions and a couple of chillies in some olive oil and then add plenty of garlic once you feel it’s not going to burn.

Frying onion and chilli

Then add a tube of tomato paste, some smoked paprika and cook for a minute or so. Then add a jar of pasatta, a slurp of red wine and then your monkfish tail. This dish works best with a firm fish like monkfish that can stand up to the strong flavours and robust cooking… but if you’ve got pollack or another flaky fish then just pop the fish in later on. Close up the cataplana and indulge in some well deserved wine.

Open the lid after 10 minutes to check how things are going and give the stew a stir so it doesn’t catch on the bottom. After 20 – 30 minutes it should be ready. Before serving throw the previously grilled veg and a handful of prawns into the stew and let it heat through.

We simply decanted the stew into a large bowl and tucked in. The combination of deep tomato, spicy paprika and flaky white fish is magnificent. It may not look brilliant in this photo, but you’ll just have to believe me when I say that it is the best thing we’ve cooked this year. It would have been even more awesome if we’d been able to find some good chorizo. But we’ll just have to save that for next time.

Monkfish stew

Cataplana image at the top is from the CataPlanas website, where I believe Cowie may have purchased it from.


aforkfulofspaghetti said...

That's a real Keith Floyd-stylee thang! But where's your wine?

Browners said...

I can assure you I was tucking into the wine with Floydian abandon. That's why I wasn't allowed the camera!

Le laquet said...

That looks delicious - I remember a plat de jour cooked in something similar in a delightful little dive* between Banyuls and the Spanish border but it had a clamp system that kept it sealed shut. We ordered and it was opened by the waiter with dirty pliers *gulp* to reveal beautifully steamed fish and shellfish - gorgeous!!

*I don't use the words delightful (fab food) or dive (grotty beyond belief - one of those places where the wallpaper/soup cauldron hadn't changed since 1954) without much consideration ;o)

Browners said...

@Le laquet - It sounds like a very similar cooking vessel. The one we used has clamps on the side that seal the lid shut. But luckily we didn't have to use dirty pliers.

TC said...

That brings back memories of holidaying in Portugal. I am seriously impressed you used it on the barbeque while camping though! I would definitely have forgotten it...

Browners said...

@TC - we never head off on a camping trip without our car bursting full of cooking equipment!

Helen said...

An inspired present indeed, well done to Cowie for finding that little gem of a cooking vessel. Another one to add to the list. I love the idea of cooking some clams or mussels or other shellfish in it simply because it looks like a big shellfish itself.

Browners said...

@Helen - It's a belter of a present. An absolute gem from Cowie. Next up will be an Asian mussel dish. Stay tuned!

Manggy said...

I think the photo looks marvelous, lighting be damned :) But here in Asia, it'd probably be served with rice. Yum.

Unfortunately, they stopped importing monkfish here, which is just as well... Maybe I'll just get a lobster ;)

Browners said...

@Manngy - If you can sneak some chorizo in there with the lobster you will probably have the most exciting bowl of food I can possibly imagine!


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