Discover the history of the Cataplana
Cataplana copper pans are traditional cooking pans used in Southern Portugal for seafood and fish stews/dishes. They are usually made from aluminum steel and copper. They consist of two clam-shaped vessels hinged together with side clasps that are sealed shut whilst cooking takes place.
There is some debate about the origins or inventor of the Cataplana. We think the cataplana was invented by Armando Luz in 1927. He was a known Portuguese metal craftsman working with copper and stainless steel.
The Cataplana was introduced to Portugal by the Bedouin Moors during their occupation of the country in the 8th century. Portuguese fishermen would take their cataplanas on fishing trips with them. They would use them to cook their fresh catch right across Southern Portugal. Nowadays, Michelin star chefs around the world are using the cataplana in innovative recipes.
Menus typically refer to cataplanas and will generally serve the actual pan to the dining table, unlike the pressure cooker. Popular dishes include seafood cataplana and the traditional pork with fresh clams which is a traditional dish from the Alentejo region.
Cataplanas are great for cooking steamed clams, fish, and chicken thighs. A cataplana can be used to make other international dishes including stir fry. Using a cataplana is quick and easy and most dishes only take up to 30 minutes. We like to combine our main ingredients with white wine, olive oil, and bay leaf. This help to seal moisture and flavours within the vessel right up to serving at the table.
How to look after your cataplana
Cataplanas are usually sold pre-varnished. This will mean that your cataplana is ready to use upon purchase. We recommend you wash your cataplana with warm soapy water before using it for the first time.
Treating your cataplana pan is easy. Over time, the copper pot and pans develop a rich patina. If you do not polish your cataplana regularly the metal can begin to look dull in colour.
To keep your cataplana shiny, combine a mix of lemon juice and salt in a small bowl. Using a clean cloth, apply the mixture to your cataplana pan and rub gently.
Cataplanas are becoming increasingly popular and there are lots of fantastic recipes and videos online. The cataplana is increasingly becoming popular as a practical cooking item for camping, backpacking, and outdoor enthusiasts
Here are some of my favourite recipe links for Cataplana dishes:
- Seafood Portuguese Cataplana – Great recipe that shows you how to create your base and Lisbon paste sauces. Recipe includes squid, clams, mussels and sea bass. Find out how to make Lisbon paste in other blog post on this subject.
- Cataplana Recipe – from Porto Novo chef (Sheraton Porto) Chef Jerônimo Ferreira. A video demonstration featuring a cataplana recipe using Monkfish, Clams, Red Peppers, Fresh Tomatoes, Parsley and Mint, and White Port Wine.
- Seafood Cataplana with monkfish, prawns and scallops.
- Pork and Clam Cataplana from foodandwine.com
- Great recipe including pork, clams and sweet paprika. Includes an overnight marinade.
- Very traditional and a great alternative for meat lovers to the fish based cataplana.
- David Leite is a well known Portuguese chef in the US. Here is his version of a cataplana with clams and Chorizo which also uses Presunto (Serrano or Proscuitto ham). Another great meat version. Check out David Leite’s recipe book ‘The New Portuguese Table’ for other Portuguese recipes.
- Great tapas recipe for Clams from Bento Bliss
- Fish cataplana with Clams and Shrimp
Perfect accompaniment to a Petisco dinner party. Find out more about Petisco, the art of making Portuguese tapas in our blog post on this subject.
Did you know that the the largest cataplana is 4 metres in diameter and six feet tall and is located in Albufeira, Portugal. It took 500 kilos of copper to make the cataplana.
Where to buy a cataplana
Iberica sells copper hammered cataplanas in Australia in the following sizes:
Ultra generous portions are available with Gourmet size cataplanas from 45cm upwards are also available upon request.
Check out our other blog subjects in our Pretty things from Portugal blog.