In Portugal food is a passion. When visiting Portugal just ask any passer-by for a local restaurant recommendation and I guarantee that you will be given not one, but easily five compelling options in the local vicinity with specific directions on how to get there quickly and if you're lucky enough a personal tip on what to order from the menu.
Eating out is taken very seriously much like a hobby or pastime. At weekend Portuguese patrons will regularly travel kilometres on the advice of a good restaurant. In Portugal around lunchtime, the majority of shops and businesses will close for a minimum of two hours in Portugal and while the shopping precincts become deserted, the restaurants and local tascas will be heaving with queues of expectant foodies and company studying the specials or inspecting the latest catch. Mealtimes are a serious business.
On our recent trip back to the Algarve, we made the effort to revisit all our nostalgic foodie haunts including chargrilled chicken in Guia, salted 'bacalhau' cod in Odiaxere and all our favourites in Lagos (of which they are many). We even managed to discover a world-class steakhouse affiliated to an agricultural cooperative in Sao Miguel, Azores which was bustling with Portuguese migrants (mostly from the US and Canada) returning home for the festive season.
Mealtimes at home are also taken seriously, and with big family get-togethers must come involved discussions about what must be eaten in any given week. Mealtimes almost occur to arrange the next mealtime for the evening or perhaps in days to come. Visiting the food or fish market requires adept precision, from considering seasonal produce, anticipating expected catch as well as negotiating the other skilled enthusiasts who religiously visit on 'market' day. As a light eater and lapsed vegetarian, I haven't always been able to contribute to the discussions but they have created fond family memories and a photo gallery of special times around the bbq and dinner table.
Recently, on our visit, my children officially became food enthusiasts. More specifically, they became hooked on clams. Clams have always been a big feature at our family table, but with my kids now embroiled in foodie fervour, meal times became even more engaging. When asked what their food preferences would be on any given day, the answer was always 'clams please'. I do enjoy clams and further investigation as shown them to be worthy of their slot in any one's diet. Clams could almost be described as a sustainable superfood, boasting excellent nutritional value as a lean source of protein that is powerfully rich in vital minerals, vitamins and Omega 3's. However, when a 6 and 9-year-old both demand clams for lunch AND dinner for days in a row, you know you are dealing with enthusiastic and very discerning minors. So to stop the pestering and to ensure that I could manage potential 'clam mania' back in Australia, I decided to pester my own mum in return for her recipe for Clams with garlic, wine and coriander or if you're searching for these in any Portuguese restaurant, 'Amejoas a bulhao pato'
Behind any credible recipe, despite the promise of a really good clam dish, here are 11 reasons why clams are actually worth trying :
1.Wild clams are sustainably resourced and may relieve the stock of other 'over' fished seafood
2.Clams are a lean source of protein with a single-serve of steamed clams containing approximately 22 grams of protein
3.Clams are a rich source of iron with a single-serve providing up to 24 mg of iron
4.Clams contain vitamin C a valuable antioxidant
5.Clams have been found to improve male sexual health
6.Clams may act as a cancer inhibitor through the presence of mercenaria merceneria.
7.Clams contain 824% of the recommended daily Vitamin B12 intake in a single serve (100 grams)
8.Clams provide a vital source of Omega 3 fatty acids which help maintain good body tissue levels
9.Clams provide Choline which improves liver health and can assist brain function and memory
10.Clams are low in fat
11.There are over 150 different species of edible clams in the world
Steamed Clams in garlic and white wine
10 minutes prep | 10 mins cooking time | 4 Servings | Easy
This version of steamed clams is really quick and makes a great weeknight dinner or weekend lunch. Serve with hot chips or fresh bread. Clams are super versatile and can be cooked over the stove, on a BBQ or in a cataplana. Buy them when you're on the road or camping for a gourmet meal on the go.
2 kgs of clams in shells
4 garlic cloves chopped roughly
2 tablespoons of olive oil
2 red chilli pepper (optional)
2 tablespoons of chopped coriander
150ml of dry white wine
2 bay leaves
Soak the clams overnight in a colander with salted water to remove any sand, grit and to pep the (live) clams. Change the water regularly. Rinse thoroughly
In a large non-stick frying pan or cataplana, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Saute the garlic and stir until golden
Add the chillies
Add the clams to the pan and a splash of white wine. Replace the lid to seal the moisture. If using a cataplana, flip the lid and lock the clasps. Turn up the heat and cook until the clams open.
Shake the pan or cataplana to combine the sauce with the clams before serving.
For other seafood or cataplana recipes check out our other blog post titled The Cataplana Experience.