Portuguese cuisine recipe - Seafood appetizers
Being a Mediterranean country, Portugal has a never ending list of fish, shellfish and seafood recipes and the rule is always the more natural the better.
In the Algarve, the part of the country closest to the Mediterranean, people are particularly keen of this sort of food.
It’s specially appealing if you think about eating it at a seafront restaurant facing the beach, feeling the warmth of the sun in your skin. So, it’s quite usual a meal starting off with some clams, donax or cockles opened only with olive oil, garlic and coriander.
Afterwards some fresh grilled fish seasoned only with salt and adding some lemon juice once it’s cooked, sided by a wonderful salad with lettuce, tomato, onions, cucumber and seasoned, again only with olive oil, salt and lemon.
Finally, after all these healthy things you can just enjoy something sweet, like an almond cookie or a carob cake.
But if you are not visiting Portugal, you may still experience Portuguese food at your own home and believe me when I tell you it’s not only delicious, but also easy, quick and healthy.
So, today I leave you with a recipe that can be used on several ingredients with the same success.
In all of Portugal, but specially in the Algarve, there is a particular combination that has lots of success:
Chopped fresh coriander
This is the basis for a lot of dishes in Portugal, from shellfish, to mushrooms, to shrimp “Açorda” or codfish “Açorda”. It is a sort of holy trinity that turns the ingredients into something special and delicious.
The main ingredient
There are a number of choices possible for main ingredients for this recipe. Basically, the recipe is always the same, you just change the main ingredient.
You can go with clams (ameijoas), donax (conquilhas), cockles (berbigão), or if you are allergic to shellfish, just use mushrooms, for instance.
Clams, donax and cockles are basically quite alike, particularly after being cooked according to this recipe, or at least that is my opinion, since I often hear otherwise.
They are all bivalve molluscs that vary in shape and size and clams and cockles are fleshier than cockles.
Be sure you buy them on the same day you're cooking them, since it's the sort of food that can go bad very easy and prior to cooking them leave them in cold water for three or four hours to let the sand out.
1 kilo / 2.2 pounds of clams or cockles or donax
10 garlic cloves
In a medium-large frying pan heat your olive oil (make sure the olive oil is covering the whole bottom of the pan) and add the minced garlic cloves. Take a hand full of fresh coriander, chop it and add it in the frying pan. Sauté for 5 minutes over medium heat just to give enough time for the flavours to mix.
Add the clams/cockles or donax and increase the heat to a maximum.
The clams/cockles or donax will then start to open. Once in a while shake the pan a bit or just stir with a spoon.
Once all they’ve all opened up, it’s ready.
It should take no more than 15 minutes to have this dish ready.
Then put it in a dish and sprinkle it with another handful of chopped coriander and with the juice from a lemon.
Be sure to have some bread around when you serve this, since it’s great to dip the bread into the gravy that you get from the cooking.
Adapting this recipe
This recipe is very adaptable, I’m just going to give you an example, which something I usually do, because my kids love it and also because we have some friends that can’t eat shellfish due to allergies.
Basically, I just trade the shellfish with mushrooms. I take out the stalk of the mushrooms and mince it as the garlic cloves and add everything together and I season it with a pinch of salt and pepper to taste (since mushrooms alone are a bit dull when it comes to flavour). The other difference is that I leave it cooking for around 30 minutes on low heat, so that the flavour of garlic and coriander really sticks to the mushrooms.
Again in the end, the lemon juice and a lot of chopped coriander on top.
Believe me when I tell you, it’s as easy as it can get, very quick and always a hit.
So, try it and let me know how it went.
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