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The Cataplana Experience

April 23, 2013by jenniep

History of the Cataplana

Cataplanas are traditional cook pans used in Southern Portugal for seafood and fish stews/dishes. Traditionally made from 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. Some believe the cataplana was invented by Armando Luz (1927-2002) who was a Portuguese metal craftsman working with copper and stainless steel. Other sources point to the Cataplana being introduced to Portugal by the Moors during their occupation of the country in the 8th century. Like the bedouins with their travelling pots, Portuguese fisherman would take their cataplanas on fishing trips with them and use them to cook their fresh catch.

Copper Cataplanas have a tinned plated interior

What is definitely clear is the influence and popularity of the Cataplana on menus right across Southern Portugal. Menus typically refer to cataplanas and will generally serve the actual pan to the dining table. Popular dishes include seafood cataplana and the traditional pork with clams which is a traditional dish from the Alentejo region. Cataplanas are great for cooking seafood, fish and white meats as moisture and flavours can be retained within the vessel right up to serving at the table.

How to look after your cataplana

Copper Cataplanas are ideal for cooking seafood dishes

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 for the first time. Treating your Cataplana pan is easy. Over time, the copper pans develop a patina. To maintain the shine of your cataplana mix lemon juice with salt in a small bowl and use a rag to apply the mixture to your cataplana pan.

Cataplana recipes

Cataplanas are becoming increasingly popular for their versatility and there are lots of fantastic recipes and videos online. As I get asked regularly for Cataplana recipes by our customers 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 here

Cataplana Recipe – from Porto Novo chef (Sheraton Porto) Chef Jerônimo Ferreira demonstrates a cataplana recipe using Monkfish, Clams, Bell Peppers, Fresh Tomatoes, Parsley and Mint and White Port Wine.

Seafood Cataplana with monkfish, prawns and scallops.

Pork and Clam Cataplana from
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

Perfect accompaniment to a Petisco dinner party. Find out more about Petisco, the art of making Portuguese tapas here

Iberica sells copper hammered cataplanas in Australia in 24cm, 27cm, 30cm and 33cm sizes.  Gourmet size cataplanas from 45cm upwards are also available upon request. For more information on Cataplanas for sale in Australia or to find out more about Iberica. please contact us.