I first ate Cataplana when I was on holiday with my parents in Portugal. I was about 10 years old and had started to read menu's and choose things for myself. My parents later told me how they were genuinely surprised at the voracity at which I ate the clams, something which still holds true today!
The cataplana is actually a large lidded saucepan in which the dish is cooked and (from memory) served at the table. Having surfed the t'internet and improvising a few ingredients this is the recipe I came up with to feed the hungry masses for dinner last night:
1kg pork loin cut into inch size cubes
2kg clams rinsed in salted water for at least an hour to allow them to drop any sand from their shells
8 slices pancetta or bacon cut into small pieces
8 cloves of garlic smashed
4 tsp sweet paprika/pimenton
2 tsp hot smoked paprika/pimenton
1 1/2 cups olive oil (needn't be extra virgin)
2 tins chopped tomatoes (400g cans)
2 tbsp tomato puree
300ml dry white wine
1 large onion chopped finely
3-4 sticks celery chopped finely
2 red peppers chopped into 1cm sized pieces
Sea Salt and Black Pepper
Rustic bread to serve
1. Pop the paprika, garlic and olive oil into a large dish and mix well. Add the pork and marinate, covered, in the fridge for at least 2 hours and preferably overnight.
2. In the largest lidded pan you have, gently fry the onions, peppers, celery and bacon in a little olive oil (2 tbsp) until the onions are opaque and peppers are soft.
3. In a separate frying pan, brown the pork in batches and tip the contents including the marinade into the pan containing the vegetables and bacon.
4. Add the tomatoes, tomato puree and wine to the large pan and bring to a simmer. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
5. Cover the pan with aluminium foil and place the lid on and turn the heat right down to a very slow simmer. (I turned my hob down to 1 and I was using the 2nd hottest plate). Simmer gently for about 15 minutes.
6. Uncover the pan and add the clams. Replace the foil and the lid and continue to simmer for another 10 - 15 minutes or until the clams are open.
7. Serve in deep bowls with lots of bread to mop up the juices - yum!
As an alternative you could always simmer the stew (prior to adding the clams) in the oven on a low setting (about 120 degrees) for several hours so that the pork is meltingly soft if you are using a cut which needs gently cooking for much longer. Then continue at step 6 to cook the clams.
It was a surefire winner and confortably served 2 hungry 18 yr old boys (ahem young men - sorry boys), Mr C and I, one 2 yr old and 2 teenage girls who won't admit to eating as much as they actually did!
Here's a pic of Ollie who just can't get enough clams and is on his second helping....like mother like son!!